In other areas of patient care, such as potentially screening for prostate cancer, only half of the male patients reported having been asked about their preferences by their provider, the study states. There was one area studied showing that patients did seem to know risks and benefits of medication: 70% say they had knowledge of the impact of drugs to control hypertension.
On the other hand, few knew the most common side effects of cholesterol drugs or had an appropriate understanding of how much reduction in the risk of a heart attack can be achieved through taking medication, according to the study.
The improved communication allows patients to be "more involved in their care," Fowler says. And that is one of the key elements—and objectives—of healthcare reform to "bridge the dialogue gaps," he says.
He noted that the law encourages shared decision-making by doctors and patients and particularly to help Medicare beneficiaries make informed decisions wrapped around an understanding of options available and the patient's choices. The idea is to educate patients and caregivers to understand various options. Among the unfolding questions will be the impact of potentially new decision-making processes, and whether it improves or reduces the quality of are, and also makes a significant dent on costs.
Physicians are standing in the middle of it all, and the potential for improved communication in so many areas, including the dialogue between patients and physicians about specific medications, their impacts, and the importance or lack thereof of particular screenings, is a big part of the process how we improve the healthcare system. Healthcare reform is setting that stage for quality care by evaluating physicians for what they do, and potentially rewarding them, Fowler says, emphatically, "to do better medicine."