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Patient Stories

The Elliotts

by: Hayley Thompson for Choosing Wisely Canada

As the project coordinator for Choosing Wisely Canada, I’ve had the chance to speak with many members of the public over the years.  Conversations have ranged from patients wanting to share their experiences of being over tested or treated, to members of the public who’ve been misinformed about the campaign, to someone simply looking for a little more detail than a patient pamphlet may offer.  But when a vague general inquiry is left on my voicemail, I’m always curious what type of reception I will be met with when I call back.

This call was no different – a quick message was left asking for more information about Choosing Wisely. I thought this would be a simple call and hoped for the best; I had answered this question a number of times over the years. After two rings, Rosanne answered the phone. Her voice seemed older and we exchanged pleasantries.

Mrs. Rosanne Elliott – two l’s, two t’s – informed me that her husband, Jack, suffered from chronic pain and that they’d been to his specialist’s office recently where she’d seen our ‘More Is Not Always Better’ hot dog poster.

“They’re fun”, Rosanne said, “I’ve also been to your website and I think it’s just great what you’re doing, and very important. You see, Jack is 80 and I’m 75. I don’t want to spend our time glaring at each other from across the dining table because he wants to get more tests that won’t help”.

I was impressed by her frank upfront nature. She told me that the pain specialist had assured her and Jack that tests would not help or change Jack’s pain but that Jack was, for the most part, incorrigible when it came to these matters of seeking tests and treatments. “I know I’m not going to change his mind, I mean I highly doubt it. He wants more tests, more medications, he really thinks more is better, you know?”

I was having a hard time understanding exactly where this conversation was going. Had she just called to tell me this? I’d begun to assume so, but then she asked, “So, may I please have one of your posters? I think if I had it on our fridge I could point to it and we could have a laugh and he could remember what the pain specialist said. We also have family members who come in to see us often and they can help me reinforce the message and remind him.”

I was caught off guard by her request. I have sent posters to doctors’ offices, partner organizations, and events, but I have never been asked to send a poster to someone personally. I was all too happy to send a poster Mrs. Elliott’s way. For me, this small request highlighted that Choosing Wisely is starting to resonate with the patient and public populations. Our messages and visuals are now part of a conversation beyond the doctor’s office. It allowed me to see the impact Choosing Wisely is having not only on clinicians in their practice, but in the day-to-day lives of people like the Elliotts.

Our campaign’s mission has always been to help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, and make smart and effective care choices. But the Elliott’s story shows that these conversations need to also take place outside of the exam room, in the living rooms and kitchens of ordinary Canadians.

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