Do you think your doctor is telling you the truth when he tells you your diagnosis or treatment? After we’ve bared our bodes, life history and practically our souls to them, you’d think in return, they would give your the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So it’s perhaps surprising to learn that a survey of U.S.physicians fount that “some patients might not receive complete and accurate information”. The findings were published in Health Affairs – a leading journal of health policy thought and research. The survey included approximately 1900 physicians. These doctors responded to a questionnaire exploring their attitudes about communication with patients. Among the findings: The vast majority of physicians completely agreed that they should fully inform patients about the risks and benefits of interventions and shod never disclose confidential information to unauthorized persons. However:
- Over 10% admitted to having told an adult patient or child’s guardian “something that was not true” in the past year
- Over 35% of physicians did not completely agree with disclosing serious medical errors to patients
- Nearly 20% said they had not “fully disclosed a mistake to patients” because of fear of being sued
- About 68% said they should disclose financial relationships with drug and device companies to their patients, the other third only partially agreed or disagreed.
These findings raise serious concerns that many patients may not receive accurate information from their physicians, and doubts about whether quality patient-centered care is even possible without a physician endorsement of core communication principles of openness and honesty with patients. As long as American physicians are paid by drug companies to prescribe their product, are paid by supply companies to use their product, and are paid on the basis of “what they sell” as a commission, the patient will always come out on the short end. A physician will do the “used car salesman” thing even when the patient is terminally ill. He will still sell that patient one last chemo treatment, or one last radiation treatment, or one last consult to another physician, to make one more payment for his Porsche… even if the treatment is of no real benefit for the patient. I know that I sound harsh, but they themselves fully admit being untruthful. The hospitals are all ok with this too! As they make money based on what business the physicians bring in.
I have said for many years, because a nurse gets paid hourly and is not tied to physicians or hospital profits or commissions, he or she can be a true patient advocate. This aspect of nursing is the greatest thing that we can do in our entire practice. Simply “doing the right thing” for the patient is what it’s all about. When it gets down to it, we nurses are the only true patient advocate in the building.