NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Leaving Patients Uninformed

December 22, 1999

Doctors don't give their patients enough information, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association based on an analysis of 1,057 tapes of conversations between primary-care doctors or surgeons and their patients.

  • Something important was missing from the discussions 91 percent of the time, the researchers said.
  • For example, a doctor might fail to say that a higher dose of a drug could offer better blood pressure control but also cause fatigue.
  • The study comes with a caveat, however, that warns the sample of doctors may not be totally representative.
  • The doctors chosen were mostly white and came from databases of insurance companies in Colorado and Oregon.

Also, the tapes were made in 1993 and conditions may have improved since then.

But the study included an editorial from a doctor who was not involved in the research. And in his opinion, the results probably apply to doctors as a whole and probably persist.

Source: Associated Press, "Study Shows Doctors Are Lax in Giving Information to Patients," New York Times, December 22, 1999.


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