Empowered Patients Still Need Professional Healthcare - Mayo Center for Innovation

The Empowered Woman Who Couldn’t Be An Empowered Patient.

Post Written By Kathy Kastner

She’s a powerhouse, this woman: respected, high energy, award-winning tv producer. She researches each of her varied subjects extensively and always digs for the most unusual story lines.

In her leisure time, she takes delight in plotting intricacies of vacation adventures. One year, when her significant other (S.O.) and his teenage daughter realized they needed time together she found unusual fabric and sewing supply stores and museums and art 
galleries: thus satisfying teenager’s passions. She also found parking spots to make father’s rental car experience less traumatic.

Couple of months ago, she revealed she wasn’t feeling well. Hadn’t been feeling well for several weeks. Main worrisome symptoms: inability to swallow and inability to stay awake.

Lasting past the sore-throat-needs-to-catch-up-on-sleep grace period, and especially worrisome considering - hovering in her memory–a friend’s recent death from esophageal cancer, which seemed to have the same symptoms.


She hit the internet and researched and researched including medical journals and found too much didn’t find anything and found she couldn’t figure it out herself.

Doctor’s Appointment

Finally, She made a doctor’s appointment. (NO, she didn’t want anyone to go with her. If she had, creative re-scheduling of working lives would have happily ensued) Her GP had retired, and in his place a woman doctor whose first language wasn’t English (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Driven By Her Suffering

Clearly suffering from fatigue and barely able to speak from throat pain, she gave her history and explanation of various symptoms.


I can barely believe what happened next. I don’t know what surprised me more the MD’s response, or powerhouse friend's.

"MD's on-the-spot diagnosis: post nasal drip. Solution: a prescription for post-nasal-drip meds."

No Further Investigation: No Further Questions

No blood or urine tests, no follow up appointment. I was shocked. I was equally shocked to hear that powerhouse didn't ask, request, demand, insist.


'Disempowered' is how she described what she was feeling. The experience exhausted and frustrated and upset her. It also demeaned and demoralized her. She was both mortified and found it humiliating to have to answer to her family and community knowing her as a take-no-prisoners kinda gal.

Working Up The Courage

Took her another 2 months of feeling crummy to work up the strength (courage? determination? nerve?) to have another go at it. I am itching to go with her – more to observe the doctor than to stand up for her (which she’d no doubt find embarrassing).

The Person Behind The Empowered Patient

This, and other similar experiences makes me wonder that the push toward empowerment and engagement and enablement forgets there’s a person who’s not feeling well and who counts on a healthcare professional to act like a professional – even when the person can’t act like an empowered patient.