September 19, 2011

Make Sure You Are Aware of All The Risks

I am concerned that many patients are needing to tell their doctor after a medical procedure - “I'm sure you didn't tell me about those risks!” There are a lot of reasons for this, some problems belong to the patients and a good number belong to the physicians or the inadequate papers supplied to the patients. Read this article for a better understanding.

Since I am a patient, I will tackle the errors made by patients. One of the biggest errors made by patients is putting complete trust in the doctor and not reading the papers that are supplied beforehand by the doctor's team. Yes, they are given to you to read and that is what you are to do. After reading these papers, make a list of questions either not covered by the papers or that you have concerns about. These should all be answered to your satisfaction before you allow any operation or procedure to proceed.

As a patient, it is your responsibility to read and understand the procedure as delays on the day of the operation can be costly for you – rescheduling often is not covered by your insurance. And the hospital has unused time and wasted space as a result of your delay. That is why it is best to get questions resolve before the day of the procedure. That is another reason to get all the paperwork done before anything is to be done and beware of a doctor that waits until the day of the procedure.

If needed delay to procedure to have all the questions answered. The doctors and people involved in the procedure may not be happy, but most will understand and know that you are being as thorough as you should be and as they want you to be. Normally, there is time before any procedure to fit this in. If the doctor says I covered this and tries to get your signature without answering questions, refuse to sign and take this up with the insurance carrier and hospital administration or appropriate state agency to put the doctor on notice for improper behavior.

Physicians from my experience generally do an excellent job of explaining planned procedures to patients. The problems are that patients often tune the physicians out and the documentation of these conversations is often severely lacking and that unfortunately is putting it mildly. Even in a survey of 402 physicians, 87 percent reported that most or some of their patients were under- or misinformed.

Today with new technology, this problem should become less and less and doctors and healthcare organizations become aware the informed consent software exists.
Much of this software is very detailed and the packets patients receive is easy to understand and not written in legalese or medical jargon to confuse the patient.

Typically those packets include a copy of the procedure-specific consent form, which is comprehensive and easy to understand. Patients are always offered a copy of their consent form, which then serves as a transcript to help them remember the informed consent conversation and their choices.

Larger practices and hospitals that have invested heavily in automation have even more flexibility in documenting informed consent using software.

Software is a great improvement and helps reduce liability risk for physicians because the software is often procedure specific and the packets given to the patients have everything spelled out for them. If the patient tries to tune out the physician or just does not read the packet, problems remain with the patient and do not transfer to the physician.

The software also improves patient flow (at least for those that have read the packets) and time is not lost with questions covered in the packets. The packets will cover pre-procedure instructions and requirements of food and fasting. Then the packets will cover post procedure instructions and patient requirements. Lastly, the software generally improves patient understanding and satisfaction.

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