It's a scene that plays out in physician offices every day, and it's a critical moment for the patient and their doctor. After
weeks of appointments, tests, and results, it's time for the conversation. The patient is anxious and confused. Today he sits
on edge, waiting for a clear answer and an idea of what happens next.
The specialist has been through this many times before and is well practiced at delivering difficult news. She clarifies the
diagnosis and prognosis, lays out a treatment plan, and is confident she has done her best to inform and assure the patient.
She answers his questions patiently, gently explaining that not everything he's heard is true. She sends him off with a few
sheets of specific information, a pamphlet, several drug samples, and prescriptions.
And the patient? He leaves, with information in hand, in shock. Although he suspected what was coming, it was a shock to hear
it out loud. He had questions but didn't get to ask them all. He'd done research on the Internet but wanted to know more.
And the specialist, as nice as she was, had other patients waiting and told him she'd see him in three months.
The conversation is changing
In today's increasingly complex healthcare world, communication between physicians and patients often doesn't work. The gap
between what the physician has to say and what the patient wants and needs to hear is growing wider. And as that gap grows,
trust breaks down.
Physicians are time challenged, attempting to see more patients during the day. At the same time, they have to comply with
REMS programs and EHR record keeping and stay abreast of more complex drug regimens and administration. Patients are more
informed and more demanding. They come in armed with information, both from the Internet and well-intentioned family and friends.
Some is helpful and functional. Some is misleading, creating ambiguity and confrontations between physicians and patients.
The critical moment of truth, when the physician summons all of his or her experience and knowledge to help patients confront
and cope with life-changing situations, is interrupted by new challenges. What we have come to call the "Clipboard Patient"
has wrestled the control of the information (the clipboard) and control of their treatment away from the specialist. The result?
Confused patients, frustrated physicians, and a potentially negative impact on therapy compliance and outcomes.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers, having invested heavily in research and marketing, seem to be unfortunately absent from the
shifting conversation at a critical moment.