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What do Physicians Need to Explain Better to Patients?

As an endocrinologist with a busy clinic practice, I often think about whether I am able to explain things well to my patients. Inherently, there are concepts that are challenging to explain and those that are easily misunderstood.

I see it often enough on my Facebook page, that despite my best efforts to explain in the vernacular and in the simplest way I can manage, sometimes I’m still not understood adequately. Sachin Jain wrote about 6 ideas that physicians need to explain better to patients. These are –

  1. Correlation does not equal causation.
  2. Natural isn’t better or worse than chemical.
  3. Doing nothing is sometimes better than doing something.
  4. Potency is drug-specific.
  5. Splitting doses won’t make the drugs last longer.
  6. Generic doesn’t equal worse.

I could probably add more to the list, and so can you. That’s why for the #HealthXPH tweet chat on 1 June 2019 9 pm, the first question is –

T1. What concept or idea do physicians need to explain better to patients?

Then I’d like tweet chat participants to try their hand at “explaining in a tweet” either one of the six ideas Sachin Jain mentioned or any other idea/concept put forth as an answer to T1.

T2. Try to explain in a tweet, a concept or idea that physicians need to explain better to patients.

I realize that such an explanation must by necessity be tailored for a particular patient, because –

Although doctors use a biomedical model to understand illness, patient beliefs and values are influenced by social and behavioral factors as well as biology or anatomy.

Fong J & Longnecker N.

Difficult as it may be, I think this might still be a worthwhile exercise for the tweet chat. And finally,

T3. Please share tips on what works (or what doesn’t) when explaining concepts or ideas to patients.

Good medical communication requires giving patients healthcare information in comprehensible form, while giving them the time to process this information. Clinicians should make the information as simple for patients as possible, without leaving out critical facts. And they should help patients avoid the hazards of fast thinking when possible by delaying decisions so patients have time to absorb decision-relevant information.

Ubel PA.

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