I have practiced Family and Urgent Care medicine for thirty years, and with the transformation of healthcare from patient-focused services to a profit-focused industry, I found myself questioning how I could continue working under such conditions. I love helping people, but when it is so flagrantly transposed into a process purely to put money in the hands of entrepreneurs, I lost my heart for it. In retrospect, I became a victim of “physician burnout”, which now plagues fifty percent of American doctors. I also realized that the lay public mostly has no idea what stresses we go through, why we can no longer spend time with our patients, and sometimes cannot even thoroughly consider their health issues.
Writing CODE BLUE allowed me to release my frustrations in a constructive way as well as potentially educate the American public about our healthcare system. I needed them to know what is happening. It was cathartic for me, and hugely improved my feelings of being an inconsequential cog on a hamster wheel. Later, I decided to make it a fictional thriller, so that it would be less heavy and more entertaining, and hopefully reach more people.
2. What is it about and whom do you believe is your targeted reader?
CODE BLUE is set in a corporate-run urgent care office. The reader follows the doctor/heroine and experiences through her the daily challenges of meeting corporate productivity measures, rapid turnover times, and the ever-present priority of getting good "customer satisfaction" scores. It illuminates the struggle to practice compassionate, evidence-based medicine in such an environment, where both the patient and the physician suffer. The storyline involves a mysterious and viscous hacking scheme where Russian oligarchs steal patient information from electronic medical records and extort billions of dollars. The patients are ultimately murdered. In the love story that plays out across two continents, the protagonist, Dr. Tobi Lister, rejects communication with the man from her past who can save her from this same fate.
My targeted readers are those who love medical thrillers and those who are involved in our healthcare system, both the providers of care and their patients.
3. What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book? What should remain with them long after putting it down?
My hope is that readers will enjoy a fast-paced, intriguing thriller and engage with the characters, and come away with an understanding of how misdirected our healthcare system has become. Through the commentary regarding our cultural values of greed, I hope it makes the reader think about our ethics, and hopefully conclude that the accumulation of wealth should never trump the value of kindness. In addition, potential pitfalls of electronic record keeping are revealed, not just in the plot itself, but in day-to-day doctor visits.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?
When you write your book, choose something you feel passionate about. Create your characters, including their back stories, then turn them loose in your desired setting and let them do what is natural for them. I found it helpful to tell people I was writing a book, because by “ratting myself out”, I had to finish it.
5. What trends in the book world do you see and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
Sadly, I see many private book stores closing as in the spirit of our society, small business are gobbled up by big ones. Medicine is, after all, just a microcosm for the rest of our civilization. The fact that there are so many more options to publish is a boon, but it also makes it harder to sift through and find the good writing.
6. What great challenges did you have in writing your book?
Time was a factor, as I was working full-time, and often exhausted when I got home. My mantra was “it’s not going to write itself”, and this helped me tremendously. It was also a delicate process to create a completely fictional world that paralleled reality, so I wouldn’t be calling out any specific organization.
7. If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
My book fulfills the cravings of both the fiction and non-fiction reader. The plot is suspenseful and exciting, and the reader can root for the love story which may or may not work out, while learning the disturbing facts of our greed-infected healthcare system. The plot is a complete fiction, but people have asked me if it is based on truth, because it sounds quite plausible. On a deeper level, CODE BLUE challenges the process by which commercial standards have been applied to human life.