Great effort goes into stopping preventable errors such as wrong-site surgeries, but authors of a study on unwanted variation in elective procedures say that many more errors are taking place because physicians are not listening to their patients.
More errors result of physicians not listening: study
The latest report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project—Improving Patient Decision-Making in Health Care, which was conducted in conjunction with the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making—concludes that if physicians educated and listened to their patients more thoroughly, unwanted variation would decline.
Researchers took an in-depth look at medical conditions involving decisions for elective care in cases where the statistics don't recommend a single course of action. For example, the report found two- and three-fold variations in incidence of surgeries for lower back pain, and in prevalence of lumpectomies plus radiation for treatment of early-stage breast cancer.
The study found that much of the difference is attributable to physicians' preferences, not differences in patient populations. But in cases of elective procedures, giving a patient a treatment he doesn't want is as much an error as wrong-site surgery, said Michael Barry, a co-author and president of the decision-making foundation.
“The patient safety movement over the next decade needs to think about reducing the rates of those errors, which we think are made quite often as well,” Barry said.
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