Actor Fox Tells Providers to Treat All Patients as Individuals

DALLAS – Michael J. Fox gave health care providers an acting lesson this morning: “Don’t play the result.”

The actor, writer, Parkinson’s patient and leader of a foundation dedicated to research on the disease spoke to attendees at the Press Ganey National Client Conference. He recounted his early acting lesson, which translates to, “Don’t let the audience know what is about to happen in a scene through your body language.” In life, that means “don’t act like you have to know what is coming next – live in the moment,” he said. “Fate is not locked. Sure, the fact that I have Parkinson’s is, but after that, all bets are off. Life changes and you go with it.”

For health care providers, that same lesson translates to not locking patients into a preconceived set of expectations for how they will fare with a disease. “Every patient is different. Don’t slot them into a place that every patient who has that condition is going to have the same result. Every one of them has their own fears, hopes and desires. Treat each patient as an individual.”

He said the key mistake the health care system makes is not involving patients in every aspect of what it does. “In Parkinson’s research, for example, there is academia, pharma, doctors and patients, but we often forget the patient part of the puzzle.”

Fox, whose foundation has pumped $250 million into Parkinson’s research, said his everyday life carries with it problems to be surmounted, but he put it in perspective by recounting a story he read about a pregnant woman in Mozambique who was about to give birth during an epic flood. With her home washed away, she climbed into a tree and delivered the baby herself while awaiting rescue.

“As I tell my family when they come to me with some problem, “A lady in a tree had a baby – what have you got?”