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Physicians Aren't Giving Patients the Whole Story

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, October 14, 2010

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."


Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.
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3 comments on "Physicians Aren't Giving Patients the Whole Story"


Garry Goe, MD, FACEP (11/10/2010 at 10:45 PM)
The article seems to blame physicians as the problem for pooly informed decision-making. The reality is the economic pressures of the system and poor health literacy won't allow for the level of education supported by the FIDM. Patients pay for my professional opinion and must trust in my advocacy to support their values. If I have to educate every patient about every facet of their care, I'd see three patients a day. Medical care is too complex. Knowing our patients as best as we can, we have to navigate the course and make recommendations to them, sifting out options based on our education and training. I am not wiki-physician. I'm not paternalistic either, just realistic.

William Bodnar (10/20/2010 at 1:11 PM)
The issue of patients received clear, understandable information has been with us forever. The issue of patients actually making informed decisions....decisions that weight the risks, benefits, pain, all costs and viable options.....will continue to emerge as baby boomers age and the web removes historic impediments. Greater patient involvement and understanding is one critical need if we are to reduce overall spending in the years ahead.

guitardiva (10/15/2010 at 10:29 AM)
Indeed. Recently, I was handed a prescription for a new medication and when I asked what the known side effects were, I was told "Don't sabotage yourself." What kind of communication is THAT?