The Nation's Health + [Heart disease prevention]

Heart disease prevention: Winning Through Intimidation

Do you remember the book, Winning Through Intimidation by author Robert J. Ringer?

Healthcare

In his 1984 bestseller, author Ringer details how to succeed in business by overwhelming clients and competition by appearing hugely successful and powerful. Rather than a business card, he'd hand out an elegant book to represent himself. He'd show up in a limousine to a meeting, even when he could barely afford it. He used these tactics, even when he was a small-fry, in commercial real estate and built a successful business following such techniques.

This reminds me a lot of what happens in conventional medical practice: The large and successful hospitals, filled with trained staff and technology, exude legitimacy and success. How can they possibly be wrong? Such overwhelming know-how and multiple levels of expertise must be right!

Let's be grateful that we do have access to such high-tech, capable care. Unfortunately, just as Mr. Ringer used deceptive practices to appear something he wasn't, this is also true in hospitals. Not all physicians have your best interests in mind. Their principal concern is how profitable your care can be for them--can you be persuaded to have your stent, bypass, etc.. After all, look around you: Aren't all this equipment and personnel impressive? Aren't you intimidated?

The patient that most recently drove home this issue for me recently was a smart and capable executive who came in for consultation. He had been told by his internist that a surgery (to replace his aorta, a HUGE procedure) was probably necessary. In my view, it was not--his process was simply not that far progressed. The risks for danger over the next several years was virtually nil. Unfortunately, this man, now confused and worried, sought an opinion from the chief of thoracic surgery (in the usual white coat and with professorial demeanor, I'm sure) in a major metropolitan hospital (in Chicago), who promptly rushed him off to the operating room.

The pathology report, cleverly not mentioned in any other of the hospital documentation, showed what I had suspected: this man had mild disease that wasn't even close to requiring surgery. But, with all that technology, $100,000 or so of costs, chief of surgery who looked the part, etc.--they must be right!

Robert Ringer's concepts only ring too true for hospitals and some of the unscrupulous physicians in practice. Don't allow yourself to be intimidated.