October 22, 2017

Old and Sick in America

I thought of calling the book, “Merchants of Health: How Doctors, Hospitals, Drug Companies, Device Manufacturers and Government Shape the Experience of Illness,” but that title didn’t say anything about old people.

I considered calling it, “Journey through the Health Care System: Aging and Ailing in America,” but both my husband and my editor thought that “ailing” sounded archaic.

“Close Encounters: Aging and Ailing in America,” another contender, had the same problem with the word “ailing” and while the allusion to the movie was cute, it’s far from clear what exactly I mean by “close encounters.”

Then there was, “In the Home of the Sick and the Land of the Aged: How the Health Care Colossus Shapes the Patient’s Experience of Illness,” which didn’t make clear what I meant by the health care colossus.

I considered using the title of this blog, “Life in the End Zone,” but the football metaphor didn’t quite work.

My editor wanted something short and to the point that made clear what the book is about. So it’s called “Old and Sick in America” and the subtitle is “the Journey through the Health Care System,” because I take the reader on a journey, beginning with a visit to the doctor’s office, then to the hospital, then to rehab, and finally back home. The book is out TODAY!

Here’s how the publisher summarizes the content:
“Since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the American health care system has steadily grown in size and complexity. Muriel R. Gillick takes readers on a narrative tour of American health care, incorporating the stories of older patients as they travel from the office to the hospital to the skilled nursing home, and examining the influence of forces as diverse as pharmaceutical corporations, device manufacturers, and health insurance companies on their experience. A scholar who has practiced medicine for over 30 years, Gillick offers readers an informed and straightforward view of health care from the ground up, revealing that many life-altering medical decisions are not based on what is best for the patient, but rather on outside forces, sometimes to the detriment of patient health and quality of life. Gillick suggests a broadly imagined patient-centered reform of the health care system with Medicare as the engine of change, a transformation that would be mediated by through accountability, cost-effectiveness, and culture change.”

Here’s what a few reviewers had to say:
From Nancy Tomes, author of Remaking the American Patient:
“With this book, Muriel R. Gillick offers a satisfying balance of insight, compassion, and evidence about the many ways that Medicare has transformed the way older Americans live and die. Fusing the skills of the social scientist with those of a physician, Gillick combines compelling personal stories and clear-eyed analysis into a very readable whole. Old and Sick in America is a book that those of us with elderly relatives, or on Medicare ourselves, need to read."

From Sharon Kaufman, author of Ordinary Medicine: Extraordinary Treatments, Longer Lives, and Where to Draw the Line:
Old and Sick in America is timely, highly original, and critically important. Everyone who goes to a doctor or hospital will want to know what is in this book.”

It’s available from the University of North Carolina Press, from Amazon (paperback $29.95, Kindle edition $9.99) and other sellers.

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