My interest in health communication began long before I pursued my master’s degree in the subject in 2012. More than a decade ago, I first started writing about provider-patient communication. These were some of my favorite stories to write because I felt like improving communication between providers and patients was something truly tangible to all people.
At some point in our lives, we will all be patients. The quality of the experience (which is different than the quality of care [i.e., medication or treatment]) a patient has with a health care provider can shape how a person feels and thinks about the health care system for years to come. Last month, Julie discussed how both she and her husband had recent experiences with less than suave health care providers.
One of the reasons I find this aspect of health communication so intriguing is because for all the talk about how there is a need to improve the way providers and patients communication, this seems to be an area where so many continue to struggle.
But some organizations have had success. In 2014, I wrote about the National Patient Safety Foundation’s (NPSF) Ask Me 3 program, which encourages patients to ask their health care provider the following three questions:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
Last month, I attended a workshop that included a presentation on another program that made me sit up and take notice. This program was what I thought was missing from provider-patient interactions so many years ago. In 2012, the American Board of Internal Medicine launched the Choosing Wisely campaign. Choosing Wisely aims to promote conversations between clinicians and patients by helping patients choose care that is:
- Supported by evidence
- Not duplicative of other tests or procedures already received
- Free from harm
- Truly necessary
As part of the program, a group of national organizations identified tests and procedures that are commonly used but “whose necessity should be questioned and discussed.” The resulting lists are meant to spark discussions between providers and patients and encourage shared decision making. In just two years, more than 70 societies comprising more than one million clinicians have signed on to be Choosing Wisely partners.
The campaign features recommends from specialty organizations regarding treatments that health care providers and patients should question. For example, one recommendation is to avoid prescribing antibiotics for upper respiratory infections, given that the majority of respiratory infections are viral and treatment of such infections with antibiotics is “ineffective, inappropriate, and potentially harmful.”
Similarly, Consumer Reports, with assistance from specialty organizations, developed patient-friendly resources as part of the campaign to help patients understand things they should question. For example, the campaign calls for patients to understand that imaging tests, such as X-ray, CT, or MRI, for back pain are not likely needed unless the pain has not gotten better for a month or two.
The best part of the Choosing Wisely campaign is the shared decision making aspect. Although still a new campaign of only two years, Choosing Wisely is proving that when health care providers and patients talk honestly and openly, we can ensure that the right patient gets the right care at the right time.