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The Importance of Doctor-Patient Communication

Each person is different, and the medical treatment a patient receives should be tailored to private needs. To achieve the best results from personalized medical care, the medical professional and the patient must be completely open with one another. However, studies show that doctor-patient relationships are still lacking in modern health care.

  • The United States Medical Licensing Exam started evaluating interpersonal and communication skills in 2005.
  • By 2010, a national survey found that only 48% of patients felt involved in decisions about their treatment.
  • Approximately 29% of hospital patients did not know who was actually in charge of the medical care they were receiving.

Refusing Treatment

Each patient needs to know the advantages and disadvantages of not only accepting the suggested treatment, but also the consequences of refusing treatment. When a patient refuses treatment, it is the doctor's responsibility to ensure that the patient understands the possible consequences of his or her decision. Medical professionals have years of training to determine adequate medical treatment and provide expert advice on all facets of health. If treatment is denied and the doctor does not explain the repercussions of refusal, then the doctor can be held liable of medical negligence.

Patient Responsibility

The patient has an obligation to be honest with the doctor in order to receive adequate medical support. If a patient fails to describe symptoms in detail, it will be extremely difficult for the doctor to correctly diagnose the ailment. This leads to problems with treatment, including incorrect treatment or lack of treatment altogether. Incorrect or inadequate treatment could make the symptoms worse.

It is also important for the patient to convey full information on any lifestyle habits or changes. This includes diet, exercise, current prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, and frequency of smoking or drinking.

Physician-Patient Privilege

Many people may feel embarrassed when discussing certain health issues. The United States enforces a doctor-patient confidentiality clause, known as physician-patient privilege, to protect the patient's privacy. Communication between the medical professional and the patient may not be disclosed to anyone, unless the patient states by contract that personal information may be shared with a specified person. This specified person may be another health care provider, a family member, or a close friend.

Without explicit documentation, none of the communication that has occurred via technology, postal service, or in person may be shared with a third party. Even if the police request a patient's medical records, they must first obtain a court subpoena. This enables the patient and the health care provider to establish an open and sincere professional relationship, allowing for optimal medical assistance.

Sources:

Giblin, E. Burke, and Christina M. Scarpa. "Does patient responsibility still exist?" AAOS Now (2012): 30+. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 May 2012.
Giblin, E. Burke, and Christina M. Scarpa. "When patients refuse treatment: is it negligence if the patient elects not to 'follow doctor's orders'?" AAOS Now (2012): 32. Academic OneFile. Web. 15 May 2012.
Meryn, Siegfried. "Improving doctor-patient communication."British Medical Journal. (1998): 316. Web. 22 May. 2012.
 Weise, Elizabeth. "Survery finds gap in doctor-patient communication." USA Today. 06 12 2010: n. page. Web. 22 May. 2012.

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