Kansas And Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Discusses The Importance Of Effective Doctor-Patient Communication

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger has vast experience representing medical professionals who are facing professional discipline. Through her experience, she has learned that effective communication between the healthcare provider and the patient is essential. Physicians and other medical professionals have an obligation to communicate with their patients. Patients need to know their diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options.  Those concepts must be communicated to the patient to help them make an informed decision about their health.  Some doctors refuse to discuss those options with their patients. To be sure, some patients do not want to hear what the doctor has to say.

According to a recent story by CNN, many cancer patients do not know the options they have or their exact prognosis. Oncologists are not providing their patients with information to help them make an informed decision on their care. Cancer patients have more treatment options now than ever before, yet many do not know about them. Their doctors have refused, for whatever reason, to tell them about potential life-saving or life-prolonging treatment options.

Some experts have opined that doctors cannot effectively communicate with their patients. Doctors can say a lot; they can use copious amounts of words. But they do not actually say anything meaningful to the patient. Communicating effectively necessarily includes talking with a patient to help them understand the situation in words that they can understand. Communicating effectively also entails taking the appropriate amount of time for the patient to ask questions and digest and figure out what is happening. Emotions can run high. The doctor can use clinical terminology and precisely describe, as only a medical practitioner can understand, the patient’s predicament. Speaking in that manner is of little to no utility to the patient. Talking to someone about the disease that can kill them is not a time for the physician to demonstrate their intellect. It is about the patient, not them.

Many cancer patients do not know their prognosis and how much time they have to live or whether their condition is curable. One physician interviewed for CNN’s article describes that situation as utterly irresponsible on the doctor’s behalf. But, in the doctor’s defense, they might not know about the patient’s lack of information because they might have had the discussion with their patient. Their patient might not have had the capacity to understand because of their emotional state. Concomitantly, their patient might not have asked to clarify if they did not understand. Effective communication is a two-way street.

The failure of communication between patient and oncologist is more rampant than one would initially estimate. CNN cited a study that concluded only 5 percent of cancer patients with less than six months to live accurately knew their dire situation. According to that same study, an unbelievable Thirty-eight percent of patients could not recall talking with their doctors about how long they could live. A similar study from 2012 cited by CNN concluded that 81 percent of people who have advanced colon cancer and 69 percent of lung cancer patients whose cancer metastasized thought they could be cured. There is no excuse for that misunderstanding: both of those conditions are understood to be inexorably fatal.

Healthcare providers should take great pains to explain their patient’s situation thoroughly. Even if they have to be the bearer of bad news, a physician owes it to a patient to tell them so they can understand what is happening. Conversely, the failure to do so could result in a malpractice claim or an investigation into an ethical violation by the Board of Medical Arts.

Professional Discipline Attorney With Proven Results

Kansas and Missouri professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger will vigorously defend your rights in a disciplinary investigation and proceeding. Call Attorney Danielle Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule an appointment.