Mayo Clinic study of patient-physician communication found that patients
frequently do not remember what their doctor tells them.
The study, reported in the December issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings,
focused on the results of general medical examinations given to 566 community
patients. Researchers collected information from both patients and physicians
about health problems and cardiac risk factors uncovered in the examinations.
They found that patients, surveyed at home after the examination, did not
mention 68% of health problems diagnosed by their physician, including
54% of their most important diagnosed health problems. Some of the most
frequently diagnosed health problems not reported by patients included:
hypothyroidism, colorectal polyps, obesity, osteoarthritis, and tobacco
Study author Dr. Sidna Scheitel believes that the low level of agreement
between physician and patients is due to a number of factors--misunderstanding
of medical terminology used by doctors; "selective listening";
and denial of the presence of health issues, such as obesity and tobacco
use. Also, patients and physicians may differ in their perception of the
importance of a health problem.
The survey found that patients who had received a new diagnosis or diagnosis
of a major health problem and patients who traveled a considerable distance
for their care were most likely to remember and follow what their doctor
had discussed with them.
Dr. Scheitel says the study suggests that doctors should consider giving
problem lists or summary letters to patients to improve and reinforce the
communication and management of health problems.