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Patients More Satisfied When Doctors Explain Certain Side Effects

November 20, 2009

Hospital patients tend to be more satisfied with their medical care when doctors speak openly with them about side effects from certain treatments, according to a new study.

Dr. Lenny Lopez, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston conducted a survey of almost 2,300 patients who received treatment at 16 Massachusetts hospitals.

Lopez noted that 603 patients reported some type of “adverse event,” which usually came in the form of side effects of prescription drugs.

Just 40 percent of patients said their medical care provider openly discussed certain problems or side effects related to their treatment.

Those who reported talking with their doctors about side effects tended to be more satisfied with their care, according to the study.

“Our findings show that disclosure is associated with patients’ perception of higher-quality care, even when they were harmed by an adverse event,” said Dr Lopez.

“We believe this is the first study to address how disclosure affects the quality-of-care impression in patients who actually were harmed during the course of their treatment and may reassure physicians and others who worry about the consequences of disclosure,” he said.

When patients encountered problems from new drug prescriptions, just 30 percent of their physicians explained the problem to them, Lopez said.

But patients gave physicians higher ratings when their physicians explained the problem to them, even if it was preventable.

“It’s quite notable that high-quality ratings continued to be associated with disclosure even when the event was determined to be preventable,” Lopez said.

“Although rates of disclosure remain disappointingly low,” he said, “our findings should encourage more disclosure and allay fears of malpractice lawsuits.”

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