Monday, 20 March 2017

Right Care: focusing on the attitude

Continuing with the "Right Care" series of the Lancet magazine, in this third post (I recall that "Definition, gray areas and reversion" was the first, and "Between too much and too little", the second), I have taken into account the beliefs of patients who, according to Vikas Saini in "Drivers of poor medical care," encourage practices of little value, but I have also described the attitudes of doctors who don’t prioritise the value of clinical practices. Remember that, according to Donald Berwick, between 25% and 33% of health costs are wasted in medical actions that don’t contribute anything or do more harm than good.

Popular beliefs that encourage resource wastage

a) Many people are convinced that the practice of medicine is based exclusively on science, which, unfortunately, is far from reality. b) From the ignorance of the inherent limitations of each test to the technical and human inaccuracies, the belief that the diagnostic tests are infallible is quite widespread. c) The trust that many people place in their doctors, otherwise indispensable, blinds them when it’s time to evaluate their abilities. d) Many people don’t dare to ask too many questions when seeing their doctors for fear of offending them. e) The heuristic effect, which is due to the impact of emotions, often causes a loss of objectivity, for example when a patient demands treatment because it worked like a wonder on his cousin, ignoring reasoned recommendations that advise against it. f) Consumer thinking, i.e. "the more the better," is increasingly preponderant. g) There is an extended belief that confuses the advice to adopt expectant attitudes, often so necessary, with budget cuts. h) Finally, we must remember that diseases generate uncertainty that leads to anxiety, a feeling that ends up being the basis of many disproportionate medical actions.

Doctors’ attitudes that fail to prioritise value clinical practices

a) Many physicians base their clinical practice on personal perceptions rather than on published evidence. b) What is clear is that there are many health care professionals in the clinic who simply don’t know how to adequately interpret the statistics emerged from medical research (innumeracy). c) There is an excess of confidence in the correlation between the anatomical images, or the physio-pathological theories, with the symptoms expressed by the patients. d) There is a tendency to think in terms of relative (very influential) risks rather than absolute (population-based) risks, which are much stronger. e) Doctors (almost all) feel better when they act than when they wait and see. As Ian Harris says, if you have been taught to operate, you operate. f) Exaggerated enthusiasm for the most sophisticated technologies is detected, especially in the field of diagnosis and treatment.

In the privacy of the practice, patients and doctors are surrounded by beliefs and fears, but also by lack of understanding and complicities, and it’s in this context that the decision making is not always the most scientifically correct or the most appropriate for the particular circumstances of each patient.

Jordi Varela

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