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More on the "patient experience"

May 2012

Published in the May 2012 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

An article posted online in March by the Archives of Internal Medicine perfectly points out the consequences alluded to by Dr. Nazario in his March Commentary (“The ‘patient experience,’ “): Patients are only most minimally defined as consumers, and much more is expected of us in our role as their physicians.

What if your patient’s only definition of satisfaction is being able to over-utilize narcotics? Where in the “measurement” of patient satisfaction is the ability to control for inappropriate or dangerous expectations? In the Archives article, the patients who reported the highest satisfaction had the highest number of hospitalizations, used the greatest amount of pharmaceuticals and medical imaging, and were at an elevated risk of death!

Pandering to patient perceptions has serious consequences. More “joy rides” and “pleasure units” in the medical arena will have exactly the opposite results from what the government wants to achieve. Certainly, the paternalistic model of medicine is long dead, but the current patient satisfaction frenzy essentially nullifies professional judgment. Instead, it satisfies both Murphy’s law “what can go wrong will “and the law of unintended consequences, which holds that implementing a policy often produces the opposite results from what was expected.

David Hayes, MD
Scottsdale, Ariz.