Blog | Wednesday, February 9, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Doctors, patients wish they knew each other better

Physicians said in a survey that noncompliance with advice or treatment recommendations was their foremost complaint about their patients. Most said it affected their ability to provide optimal care and more 37% said it did so "a lot."

Three-quarters of patients said they were highly satisfied with their doctors. But they still had complaints ranging from long wait times to ineffective treatments.

Those are just some of the findings from two surveys, the first a poll of 660 primary-care physicians conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center in September 2010 and the second a poll of 49,000 Consumer Reports subscribers in 2009. The magazine reported its results online.

In the doctors' poll, physicians named these top challenges:
--76% of doctors said when it came to getting better medical care, forming a long-term relationship with a primary-care physician would help "very much."
--61% said being respectful and courteous toward doctors would help "very much," while 70% said respect and appreciation from patients had gotten "a little" or "much" worse since they had started practicing medicine. This was a two-way street, since patients reported the same feelings.
--42% physicians said health plan rules and regulations interfered "a lot" with the care they provided.

Also noted in the poll, 37% of physicians thought they were "very" effective when it comes to minimizing pain and discomfort for their patients, though 97% thought they were "somewhat" effective. But, 79% of patients said their doctor helped to minimize their pain or discomfort, according to the Consumer Reports blog. The gap might be explained by doctors thinking of their overall effectiveness with all of their patients, including those with chronic pain conditions that are difficult to diagnose and treat, and who are as a group less satisfied with their physicians.

Next, the patients said what they thought would help their relationship with a physician:
--31% said they wished they had more information before choosing a doctor. Not knowing much up front about a doctor's personality or treatment style was a real obstacle for patients in search of a good match.
--More than one-quarter of patients indicated some level of discomfort with their doctors' inclination to prescribe drugs.
--9% said they had e-mailed their doctor directly in the previous year.

Possibilities to enhance communication include:
--Patients could take notes during the appointments. 89% of doctors said that keeping an informal log of treatments, drugs, changes in condition, notes from previous doctor visits, and tests and procedures could be helpful. But only 33% of patients routinely did so.
--Research online, but carefully. 61% of patients said they researched health information on the Internet to help with their medical care. Almost half of physicians surveyed said online research helps very little or not at all.