The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Dr. Mark Pettus

Chief of Staff, Berkshire Medical Center, Pittsfield, MA

University of Massachusetts Medical School; Graduate Medical Training, Harvard Medical School; Nephrology Fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital

B.A., Boston University

Host, The Berkshire Health Program


Want to be a Savvy Patient? Dr. Pettus Has the Answer


Be careful about reading health care books. You may die of a misprint. Though these words are attributed to Mark Twain, they express a common concern among health care consumers (patients) and health care providers (doctors, nurses, and hospitals). Reading Dr. Mark Pettus’ latest book, The Savvy Patient, will improve your chances of identifying and receiving the appropriate medical care for yourself or a loved one. It’s clear that you should do all you can to be a savvy patient before you encounter a medical crisis or frightening diagnosis.

Dr. Pettus tells us that the relationship is the most important dynamic between a patient and a physician, adding the biggest frustration to both patients and health care givers is that there is so little time to spend together. Even though time always seems so limited when a patient is actually with a doctor, it is essential for the patient to take the time to clearly define any difficulties, symptoms, or needs and ask any questions. Savvy patients come to appointments prepared to do just that.

In the past, the doctor may have been feared or revered so highly that the patient felt there was no need for questions or it was inappropriate to raise any question. After all, the doctor was the trained professional and he would surely tell you what you needed to know. There was often a paternal relationship with one’s doctor. He would know all about your family history, including medical, emotional, and spiritual profiles.

Dr. Pettus says today there needs to be more of a teamwork approach with the health care provider. Not only does the patient need to think ahead, but Pettus encourages patients to look for and bring in any information pertaining to their own condition or about a medication or supplement and ask their doctor about it.

As the developer of an entire course of study for medical students, Dr. Pettus teaches young doctors to welcome patient information not only about medical needs or symptoms, but also about the whole person. He says there are wounds that no CAT scan will ever pick up – abandonment, rejection, broken hearts – that have a significant affect on the patient’s well being and potential for total healing. He teaches that as a physician takes in all this information, he or she can better serve the patient with counsel, care, and treatment.

Dr. Pettus acknowledges that because of the increase in medical red tape, insurance demands, HMOs, and the rise in government and private agencies with a whole host of different offerings, using the medical system can create a meltdown in the patient’s mind before he or she ever gets to a diagnosis.

Because of the way the system has grown and changed, he believes all health care professionals need to take a more client-based approach. Dr. Pettus encourages health care professionals to solicit feedback from their patients, and when feedback is given, to consider what they can learn from it about communicating with their patient/clients so that more effective results can be obtained.


Dr. Pettus was raised in a Christian home and says that because his faith is such a natural part of his life, it has always been a part of how he approached medicine. He sees a very clear connection between faith and healing. It is evident to him from years of practice that those patients with a faith have a greater measure of hope and they see a greater measure of healing and wholeness. He believes a doctor should even explore avenues of a patient’s faith and encourage the patient to seek out support and counsel from their church or temple or place of worship.


Dr. Pettus makes it clear that being a savvy patient means developing a relationship, and his book offers good advice to more effectively develop and sustain the partnerships patients should have with their care providers. He says a savvy patient is in control.

The Savvy Patient gives practical steps in the following areas:

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