|Support the Health Center Alumni Relations Publications About Us|
SoM Alumnus Writes Consumer-Focused Book, Blog About Health Care Today
From the April 2009 issue of UCHC e-Link.
With an estimated $2.5 trillion being spent on health care nationally in 2009, the ability of a single person to shape health policy seems miniscule.
But by combining his inside view of the medical system with an approach tailored for the benefit of patients, UConn School of Medicine alumnus Davis Liu, M.D. ’97 is helping educate Americans about how to make the best decisions for their own health.
His book (Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely - Making Intelligent Choices in America’s Healthcare System), blog and frequent media appearances have catapulted Liu to the position of a widely known advocate for patients, urging them to become more informed about their health care decisions. He has appeared in numerous national media stories about health care, most recently in the New York Times and Weight Watchers magazine.
Liu says that along with his background as a primary care physician, his own family’s experience with a serious illness motivated him to write the book.
“Everyone assumes that his doctor knows what is in his best interest. But in the case of my brother, the cancer surgery that was recommended was wrong. The care he needed only exists in academic medical centers,” Liu says. “Had we not stopped the surgery and insisted he seek a second opinion, there is a very good chance his cancer would have returned.”
What alarms him more is that with increasing health care costs, benefits are being reduced and, most importantly, the burden for making important decisions has shifted.
“Through health savings accounts and other means, we are forcing consumers to take financial responsibility for their care, but we don’t impart the knowledge of what works or what is hype. Consumers often don’t have the knowledge to make informed decisions and don’t want this responsibility…. Research shows that individuals are skipping important necessary care, which will be at a detriment to their health because of this new reality.”
Liu sees the health care landscape shifting even more in the future.
“I think there’s a discussion about health care that the country wants to have, but we’re not there yet,” he says. “Our country is getting fatter. Less healthy. There is more chronic illness. Everyone is struggling with health insurance costs. Everyone wants a solution. We must have a difficult conversation as a nation about how we are expected to manage all of this.”
Writing Stay Healthy, Live Longer, Spend Wisely took four years, and was completed while Liu was working as a practicing board-certified family physician with the Permanente Medical Group in California. He says that his education at UConn helped shape his life and also his view of the system.
“I had always wanted be a doctor, and was very happy at UConn. Farmington was beautiful and some of my closest friendships were formed there at school,” he says. “I also felt that there was a strong focus on primary care, which is so important to our health care system.”
Liu believes that the role of primary care medicine is changing, which may actually be both a symptom of a sick system and also a key to a solution.
“Some of the best health care organizations I’ve seen are primary care-focused. They are committed to supporting a robust primary care workforce through the use of information technology and streamlining access to specialty support to make their jobs easier. Despite this new reality, the majority of medical students don’t wish to do primary care, even though it will be crucial if our country hopes to have the world’s best health care system.”
As the public gets bombarded with countless commercials and mixed messages about good health, Liu views primary care doctors as advisors to be increasingly important. Patients in partnership with their primary care doctors can decide together when money should be spent to stay healthy and when one can safely save. The advice Liu gives in media interviews is often based on three pieces of advice for consumers: be informed, be engaged, and ask questions; in other words be an advocate for yourself..
Using mnemonics like D.A.T.E. (Did you understand the Diagnosis? Did your doctor suggest Additional testing or procedures? Are you clear about the Treatment plan? Do you know when or if need to return for another Exam?), Liu’s writings present the complications of health care today in easy-to-understand packages. Ultimately, he says the path to a better health care system comes from education and cooperation.
“There’s a big disconnect in the system today,” he says. “Care often isn’t as good as it should be, and too often patients just accept this. But it doesn’t have to be this way.”