Poor doctor communication leads patients to choose dangerous treatments

Saturday, April 09, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: doctors, patients, health news

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(NaturalNews) Several new studies out of Massachusetts suggest that medical patients often misinterpret what their doctors tell them and opt for drug and surgery treatments without understanding the risks involved. But the same reports indicate that people tend to choose standard interventions they think will cure them -- but that actually only treat symptoms and come with serious side effects -- because of the way doctors communicate with them, failing to offer alternatives or encourage patients to do their own research.

Researchers at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., discovered that many heart patients believe that heart stents help to prevent heart attack and death, even though the tubes are only able to help reduce chest pain. And a Massachusetts General Hospital study found that, in general, patients with serious problems tend to go with whatever their doctors suggest without giving much thought to the potentially life-threatening consequences.

But is this the fault of patients or doctors? After all, many doctors simply suggest conventional options that typically center around pharmaceutical drugs, medical devices and complicated surgeries, rather than nutrition and lifestyle change alternatives that provide a holistic, long-term benefits.

According to Dr. Alicia Fernandez, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, doctors make a lot of money by doing complicated and expensive procedures, and will likely recommend them without fully disclosing risks or offering alternatives to patients.

"It's kind of hard to say to the patient, 'By the way, you would do just as well if you don't get [the procedure,'" she emphasized in a report.

Doctors are often rushed with patients as well, trying to cycle through as many as possible in order to make the most money. So they often quickly explain procedures to overwhelmed patients that feel pressured to go with the first recommendation that sounds like it might fix the problem.

Possible solutions to the problem of poorly informed patients include encouraging doctors to spend more than 15 minutes with patients to discuss treatment alternatives. Doctors may also be advised to send patients home with videos that discuss treatments options and corresponding risks, encouraging patients to think about and research the information further.

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