One of the surprising anomalies in our health care system is that despite very high per capita spending, patient satisfaction is often low. One explanation may be that consumers often feel unconsulted and uninvolved in significant health care decisions. A recent article explores efforts being made to engage patients in understanding options regarding their medical care and in having more comprehensive conversations with their providers about which option to choose. (WSJ Article)
The article details various methods of obtaining greater patient engagement, including videos and written materials, coaching and more structured physician communications. A number of studies have shown that patients tend to prefer less intensive, less risky, and less expensive options than their physicians would often choose for them. Studies also indicate that very often physicians do not do a complete job of explaining the options, particularly the risks and side effects.
Respecting patient preferences should be one of the primary objectives of health care, but too often providers substitute their own judgment about what should be done. Legislative or regulatory measures to ensure that patients are fully consulted and their wishes respected could be a significant reform component that would create significant savings and improve consumer satisfaction.