This week we hear from Angelo E. Volandes, MD, a physician and writer at Harvard Medical School whose work focuses on empowering patients and families in the health care system.

1. Your book is, “The Conversation: A Revolutionary Plan for End-of-Life Care” and of course you know that one of our Mayor’s Wellness Campaign programs is “Conversation of a Lifetime.” Can a conversation be the best medicine?
Yes. The conversation is an honest discussion with you and your health care team about what’s important in your life. If there ever is a time when you have a serious illness everyone will know how to honor and respect your wishes.

2. In January, CMS will be paying physicians to have advance care planning conversations with patients. Are health care professionals ready?
Most doctors today have never been trained to have this conversation. And many doctors are afraid of scaring their patients. Patients can let their doctors know they are open to having this discussion. That will put all at ease and open the door to an honest and frank discussion. In my book, I tell people not to wait for the doctor to start the conversation.

3. You developed your library of videos with your nonprofit group, Advance Care Planning Decisions. Why are these videos so useful for physicians as well as patients?
There is only so much that can happen in the health care arena. We want to change the landscape so the conversation is happening in towns and cities. We want to create a new normal so the conversation is happening in town squares and at family dinner tables.

4. Why did you decide to work with the Mayors Wellness Campaign? How can we engage communities?
Even if every medical student in America today learned to have this discussion it would still be generations before we could meet the need. That’s why we are using technology, such as theconversationbook.org. We help people start the process. So many medical interventions induce pain and suffering and many do not prolong life. The truth is that if you have a terminal illness one of the worst places you can be is in a hospital.