Elizabeth Cohen is surely the most visible spokesperson for patient empowerment, because she’s on CNN and CNN.com. She’s got an hour-long special on CNN this weekend. Highly recommended, especially for friends and family who don’t get what this is all about.

The first showing was 7 pm ET tonight. It’ll be repeated at 7 Pacific (visible also at 10 ET). The same schedule will repeat Sunday. A preview clip is here.

The special dramatizes several anecdotes from her book of the same name (my Amazon review). A one-hour TV special, of course, is a different game: the book covers many topics (finding the right doctor for you, solving insurance problems, etc), but the special does what mass market TV is good at: tell stories.

I often start talks by saying “Patient isn’t a third person word. This is personal.” Indeed, Cohen herself started the Empowered Patient feature partly out of her mother’s own misdiagnosis, and trouble with own her daughter’s birth. The special starts off with her mother’s story, with footage of her kidney transplant last January at Beth Israel Deaconess.

As someone who spends a lot of time working on messaging (how to convey an idea in the available moments), I have a lot of respect for how this program was crafted. I first listened to a preview DVD, without watching, and it didn’t hit me well. But the full show comes across with impact: the visuals do their job well, and the stories do come to life when you see the people and places.

A real challenge in culture change is the need to reach people where their attitudes are now, and speak into that mindset. Cohen does a particularly good job here of asserting that trying to be a “good patient” can kill you, and then making the case – with real people telling their stories – that patients can and should wise up and speak up. That’s consciousness raising; that’s empowerment. I think it’ll be a good teaching tool for patient advocates everywhere.

All the stories in this program are survivors, favorably affected by speaking up. We know that’s not always the case, and that’s why this teaching is important.

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