New York Times Examines Information Available to Patients for Health Care Decisions
The New York Times on Sunday published two articles examining patients' health care decision-making and resources available to help make such decisions. Summaries appear below.
- Some patients "embrace" the "blessing and burden of being a modern patient" -- including a "superabundance of information, often several treatment options and the right to choose among them" -- with a "sense of pride and furious determination," but many find the situation "to be lonely, frightening and overwhelming," the Times reports. The trend among patients to become better informed of medical treatments "has been fueled, in part, by the array of options that often accompanies diagnoses, many so new that gold-standard treatments, backed up by randomized trials, have yet to emerge," according to the Times. In addition to treatment decisions, patients must coordinate doctors, medical records and procedures, as well as negotiate with insurance companies. While studies have shown that "the more informed patients are about their care, the more likely their health will improve," some doctors say that information gathered by patients is "half-baked" and that they "must spend precious moments in an already constrained time slot re-educating" patients, the Times reports (Hoffman , New York Times, 8/14).
- Patients who want more information about diagnoses and treatment options are consulting organizations that offer education and support programs for specific conditions and other resources to become better informed of their options, the Times reports. Additional resources include: patient advocates, who can be employed by hospitals or hired privately to resolve disputes between patients and hospital staff members and help in treatment decisions; not-for-profit advocacy centers; and insurance companies' disease management teams, which maintain direct contact with patients, "largely bypassing the physician," to help patients manage their health care, according to the Times. Doctors also are "increasingly turning to e-mail" to communicate with patients, although confidentiality and a return response are not always assured, the Times reports. Doctors have been "trying to reconnect with patients through a philosophy of conversational engagement known as shared decision-making, in which doctor and patient work together to choose a treatment" (Hoffman , New York Times, 8/14).