Ten Steps that May Save (or Improve) Your Life

Prepare Now to Engage as a Patient and/or Advocate for Someone You Love

July 10, 2014

Let Patients Help! by Dave deBronkart with Dr. Danny Sands is a valuable patient engagement handbook. This little book should be a key resource for you and your family. You’ll learn about important steps in taking charge of your own health. You’ll want to check your patient chart, ask questions, search the Internet, and engage with patient communities. Your physician should ideally welcome your research and your engagement in your own treatment and prevention.


Your health, and the health of the people you love, are too important for you not to be proactively engaged. I recommend that you read this short Patient Engagement Handbook1, written by Dave deBronkart and his physician, Dr. Danny Sands. The book is called “Let Patients Help!.” It’s based on a true story—how Dave and Danny battled and won Dave’s fight with kidney cancer back in 2007. And how they have since become active partners and advocates in the “Patient Engagement” movement around the world.

As patients and customers, we need to take control of our own health and care. It’s not good enough to let healthcare professionals do their jobs. Too many things can go wrong due to human error, or complexity, or bad luck.

Let Patients Help! Book coverLET PATIENTS HELP!

How Doctors, Nurses, Patients, and Caregivers Can Partner for Better Care

The 67 pages in this book could save your life! They encapsulate what Dave deBronkart and his physician, Dr. Danny Sands, learned, practice, and now advocate. In 2007, Danny Sands discovered a spot on Dave’s lung during a routine shoulder x-ray. That led to a diagnosis of advanced stage 4 kidney cancer that had already spread throughout Dave’s body. The good news: within seven months, Dave was cured. The equally good news: Dave and his collaborating physician are now the co-chairs of the Society for Participatory Medicine. They are both convinced—along with hundreds of thousands of other patients and practitioners around the world—that the best medicine is participatory medicine—in which the patient and the professionals collaborate to reach mutually agreed upon goals.

Anatomy of This Book

There are 10 short chapters in this book that capture the “Ten Fundamental Truths” about Health and Care. (Note that the authors don’t use the term “Healthcare”—as Dave deBronkart explains: “Health is not medicine. Treatment is not care.”):

“‘Health and care’ is an easy plug-in replacement for the usual phrase: ‘health care.’ And that boosts the odds that people will use the new wording:

I say:

  • The industry we call ‘healthcare’ is mostly medicine, medical skills, and medical services. I love the industry for saving my life, but I call medicine medicine.
  • Health is your health, your well-being. You can have plenty of health so you never need care. But I still prefer to get checkups—remember, I was saved by a discovery during a routine physical.
  • Treatments are good, but they’re separate from care. I know plenty of people who’ve gotten treatments with no care, and vice versa.”

~ Dave deBronkart, Chapter 8: Health Is Not Medicine. Treatment Is Not Care

Gimme My Damn Data!

The middle of the book is comprised of 10 short chapters on ways to let patients help. The chapters in the last section are a series of tips: Tips for patients and families, tips for providers, tips for insurers. It also includes Dr. Danny Sands’ tips for searching the Internet in search of good medical information. In addition, there’s an epilog and an important appendix: Stop the Denial (about how dangerous medicine is).

After I read the entire book, I put together my own “Top Ten List” of things to bear in mind.

Ten Things to Do to Be an Empowered Patient (Things that May Save Your Life!)

Here are my top 10 favorite tips, culled from the many lists throughout their book. Whether it is you or someone you love, I recommend that you print out this list and take it with you to your next appointment with your physician or nurse practitioner...(more)


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[1] Let Patients Help! by e-Patient Dave deBronkart, with Dr. Danny Sands, published on CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 20, 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1466306493

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