Last Thursday at the headquarters of the British Medical Journal in London, an important announcement will be made about patients’ rights to be actively involved in decisions about their treatment. Below is the press release about it.
The subject is shared decision making, which we’ve been posting about recently (series here; initial post here.) Developed by the participants in a Salzburg Global Seminar last December, the document is called the Salzburg Statement. The pivotal distinction here is the difference between informed consent, in which the physician assesses the options and selects one, and gets your consent to do it; and informed choice, in which clinicians tell you the options, with all the pros and cons, and let you choose, based on your preferences.
Click the image to download. (It’s an A4 PDF; to print, those using letter size paper should select “Page Scaling: Fit.”)
I’ve been reading Jack Wennberg’s new book Tracking Medicine, which is about his lifetime of work in understanding the reality of how medicine is practiced, as a route to helping us achieve the best care possible for each of us. My first post about this was three months ago, en route to a seminar on SDM (shared decision making); my first post after the seminar was shortly after. The whole subject has bent my thinking about healthcare so severely that it’s taken me this long to decide what to say next.
Your doctors, with the best of intentions and the best of training, may unwittingly be prescribing treatments that aren’t necessary for you, or not prescribing things that are. (“You” includes anyone you’re caring for.)
This realization was developed not through people’s opinions but by looking at cold hard numbers. After controlling for all variables, the odds of a given patient getting a given treatment vary by hundreds of percent from region to region. Read more »
Clinical judgment is the application of individual experience to the variables of a patient’s medical presentation. It’s the hard-worn skill of knowing what to do and how far to go in a particular situation. It’s having the confidence to do nothing. Clinical judgment is learned from seeing lots of sick people. Good clinical judgment is when the gifted capacity of reasoning intersects with experience. Some doctors have better judgment than others.
Aristotle called this phronesis — or practical judgment.
Patients have practical judgment. We often can tell when something’s amiss with our own body. Things feel different or look different. Taking action on these observations is how we exercise judgment as patients.
Parents of children with central venous lines, for example, can often identify the early signs of infection before fever has ever appeared. They know the subtleties of their child’s behavior. The same goes for children with epilepsy. People with diabetes increasingly have the latitude to apply judgment to the management of their disease. This tends to be quite defined, however, with fixed variables and limited options for intervention. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*
This video is an excellent testimony of what a truly engaged and knowledgable patient with diabetes looks and sounds like. Kudos to the Mayo Clinic for sharing this wonderful piece about shared decision making.
Pay particular attention to the fact that the patient in the video was treated for diabetes by her primary care physician for eight years before being referred to a clearly “patient-centered” endocrinologist. Also note her belief that a patient-centered approach to chronic disease management probably results in shorter, more productive visits in the long run.
More Can Also Be Less: We Need A More Complete Public Discussion About Comparative Effectiveness Research
When the public turns its attention to medical effectiveness research, a discussion often follows about how this research might restrict access to new medical innovations. But this focus obscures the vital role that effectiveness research will play in evaluating current medical and surgical care.
I am now slogging through chemotherapy for stomach cancer, probably the result of high doses of radiation for Hodgkin lymphoma in the early 1970s, which was the standard treatment until long-term side effects (heart problems, additional cancers) emerged in the late 80s. So I am especially attuned to the need for research that tracks the short and long-term effectiveness — and dangers — of treatments.
Choosing a surgeon this September to remove my tumor shone a bright light for me on the need for research that evaluates current practices. Two of the three surgeons I consulted wanted to follow “standard treatment procedures” and leave a six-centimeter, cancer-free margin around my tumor. This would mean taking my whole stomach out, because of its anatomy and arterial supply.
The third surgeon began our consultation by stating that her aim would be to preserve as much of my stomach as possible because of the difference in quality of life between having even part of one’s stomach versus none. If at all possible, she wanted to spare me life without a stomach.
But what about the six-centimeter margin? “There isn’t really much evidence to support that standard,” she said. “This issue came up and was discussed at a national guidelines meeting earlier in the week. No one seemed to know where it came from. We have a gastric cancer registry at this hospital going back to the mid 1990s and we haven’t seen support for it there, either. A smaller margin is not associated with an increased risk of recurrence.” Read more »
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