Poor Communication Between Doctors and Patients Poses Risks

by | Sep 29, 2010 | Firm News, Medical Malpractice |

New research shows that doctors and patients have very different perceptions of their communications with each other.

The Wall Street Journal reports that researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and Waterbury Hospital conclude that “significant differences exist between patients’ and physicians’ impressions about patient knowledge and inpatient care received.”

The study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine of 43 physicians and their 89 hospitalized patients shows major differences in some fundamental pieces of information. Here’s how doctors view their communications with their patients:

  • 7 percent of the surveyed doctors believe their patients know the doctor’s name
  • 77 percent said their patients understand their diagnosis
  • 79 percent admitted they don’t always explain things in a clear, coherent manner to their patients
  • 81 percent said that when prescribing new drugs, they discuss possible adverse effects on the patients at least some of the time
  • 98 percent said that at least some of the time, they discuss their patients’ anxieties with them

Things are quite a bit different from the patients’ point of view:

  • 82 percent of patients couldn’t correctly identify their doctor by name
  • 57 percent of patients could, upon their discharge from the hospital, name their diagnosis
  • 58 percent of patients said their doctors explained medical matters clearly
  • 90 percent of those who received new medications said their doctor never told them about adverse side effects
  • 54 percent of patients said their doctors never discussed fears or anxieties

Health care advocates have for years stressed the critical importance of clear communications between physicians and patients. Clear interactions help to ensure that patients understand the procedures and medications doctors recommend, and help doctors accurately diagnose their patients’ symptoms and illnesses and prescribe proper treatments and medications.

When doctors fail to be clear and fail to make the effort to fully understand their patients, they put their patients at risk of suffering the consequences of medical errors including medication errors that can cause injuries, illness and even fatalities.



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