Patients, Doctors Often Have Communication Discrepancies

Hospital surveys find relatively few patients can name doctor in charge; many don't know diagnosis
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitalized patients and physicians may have differing beliefs regarding patients' knowledge and aspects of their care, suggesting a need for improved patient-physician communication, according to research published in the Aug. 9/23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Douglas P. Olson, M.D., and Donna M. Windish, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., analyzed data from surveys of 89 patients and 43 corresponding internal medicine residents and attending physicians.

The researchers found that 73 percent of patients felt that one main doctor was in charge of their care, but only 18 percent of all patients could correctly identify this physician. Conversely, 67 percent of physicians thought patients knew their names. Only 57 percent of patients knew their diagnosis, though 77 percent of physicians thought patients knew this information. Most physicians -- 98 percent -- said they discussed patients' fears and anxieties at least sometimes, though 54 percent of patients said their physicians never did so.

"It has been almost two decades since publication of the landmark work on patient-centered care Through the Patient's Eyes, a monograph that stressed the need to create a hospital environment where 'subjective experience is taken as seriously as more traditional objective data.' Our data show that much work still needs to be done to achieve this goal and that implementing the seemingly simple solution of better communication and interpersonal skills on everyone's part continues to be a challenge," the authors conclude.

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