Doctors, patients see things differently during hospital stays, study finds

Aug 10, 2010 By Karen Kaplan, Los Angeles Times

You'd think that if you spent five days in the hospital, you'd have a pretty good idea of what you were in for. At the very least, you'd know the name of your doctor.

Most doctors certainly think so. In a survey of 43 physicians caring for at Waterbury - a private, nonprofit hospital in Connecticut affiliated with the prestigious Yale University School of Medicine - 67 percent thought their patients knew their names. However, a parallel survey of 89 patients in the same hospital found that only 18 percent could correctly name the doctor in charge of their care.

That wasn't the only discrepancy between doctors and patients at Waterbury Hospital. In the survey, 77 percent of doctors said they were under the impression that their patients "understood their diagnosis at least somewhat well." Yet when asked why they had been admitted to the hospital, 43 percent of patients either gave the wrong answer or flat-out said they didn't know.

Regarding medications, 19 percent of the doctors admitted that they routinely failed to discuss the adverse side effects of the drugs they prescribed to patients. That would be bad enough, but the reality was far worse; according to patients, 90 percent were never told of the potential side effects of their new drugs.

In a few cases, the doctors were doing better than they gave themselves credit for. For instance, only 21 percent of physicians gave themselves credit for explaining things to patients in ways they could understand. But 58 percent of patients said they were satisfied with the way things were explained to them. In addition, 98 percent of thought patients wanted a bigger role in making decisions about their care. In reality, only 31 percent of patients felt that way.

The survey results were published in Tuesday's edition of Archives of Internal Medicine.

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