Sometimes you need a published study to tell you what should be obvious in the first place.
This time, researchers have discovered that:
When physicians have more personalized discussions with their patients and encourage them to take a more active role in their health, both doctor and patient have more confidence that they reached a correct diagnosis and a good strategy to improve the patient’s health.
But wait, there’s more.
The study also found that what they call “patient-centered care” (what other kind should there be?) saves money, too. According to the study, the number of specialist referrals, diagnostic tests, hospitalizations, and total charges were reduced in the population of patients that got this kind of care.
This seems like the kind of thing we should be building our health care system around. Unfortunately, the most important building block for patient centered care – the primary care doctor – is in short and dwindling supply. Although 56% of patient visits in America are for primary care, only 36% of doctors practice primary care. And among recent medical school graduates the numbers are even worse – only 8% plan to enter the field.
The health care reform law is set up to add fifteen thousand new primary care doctors by 2015 – and about 40 million newly insured people. If these numbers are hit, the supply of doctors will barely keep up with even the existing demand.
What’s a patient to do?
Control the part of your care you can control. Patients who are engaged, informed, active participants in their care do better than those who are not. Your doctor may not have the time to practice “patient-centered” care, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be a patient-centered patient. Ask questions, insist on answers, make sure your doctor spends the time with you that you need to be sure that the decisions you make are the right ones for you. Use every resource available to you to make sure you get the right care.
It’s the kind of thing you don’t need a research study to tell you to do.
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*