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Doctor–Patient Gap

Quinn Phillips

February 9, 2010

Here at Diabetes Self-Management, we often mention the concept of a “health-care team”: a person and all of his doctors and other health-care providers working together to ensure the best health outcomes. At times this can be, of course, more an ideal than a reality — for reasons that may include disagreement or lack of communication among doctors, or limited access to health-care specialists. A new study highlights another reason why it may be difficult to move ahead seamlessly with a health-care plan: disagreement between people with diabetes and their doctors over which health problems deserve immediate attention and action.

In a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School and the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 1200 people with both diabetes and high blood pressure and their doctors were asked to prioritize the treatment of their various chronic conditions. Of the doctor–patient pairs, 28% did not rank treatment priorities the same way. The sicker a person was, the more likely his priorities were to differ from his doctor’s. As an example, 38% of doctors ranked high blood pressure as the most important condition to treat, while only 18% of the people with diabetes felt the same way.

According to the researchers, patients gave higher priority to treating pain and depression than their doctors did. The researchers speculated that this might represent folly on the part of the doctors, since such immediate symptoms can interfere with self-management of diabetes and other conditions in addition to the misery they cause on their own.

What do you think — does this survey show that doctors aren’t in touch with the true needs of their patients? Or does it show that doctors have different standards for deciding what’s a serious problem? Do you feel that your doctors get enough input from you when deciding on medical treatments? Leave a comment below!



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