April 13, 2012

The Sound of Silence: Helping Break the Silence

by Levin & Perconti

Yesterday we touched on the new essay in the Hospitals and Health Networks Magazine that explored the remaining concerns about accurate and honest information being presented to patients about their own medical care. Each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm appreciates that even though more information is available to patients than in the past it is unhelpful unless used correctly.

The essay went on to note that even the insurance and billing information provided to patients is often impossible to understand. Many patients never receive an itemized bill at all, and, even when they do, it can be nearly incomprehensible to sort out what the hospitals paid, what was paid by the insurer, and what the patient needs to pay. Usually the patients just end up paying, and any errors in the billing are rarely caught.

So how do we fix the problem?

The essay author provides an updated list of recommendations to the industry in order to help actually break the silence of accurate and fair information being passed between doctors and patients. The Illinois medical malpractice attorneys at our firm appreciate that if more and more consumers and medical professionals took these tips to heart, then many medical errors that might otherwise go unnoticed could be caught or prevented.

--Public reporting obstacles need to be addressed. A recent study found that those were: opposition from medical providers, lack of funding, lack of consumer engagement, political obstacles, insufficient infrastructure, and inadequate measurements. These are general concepts, but they lie at the heart of converting lists of public information into useable formats that can actually help consumers.

--Fixing the problem will require a medical culture change. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, and others involved must go into the situation knowing that business-as-usual cannot be sustained.

--Issues like patient passivity and underlying power issues have to be addressed.

--Improve overall health literacy. The more basic concepts that a patient understands, the better.

--Monitor information use to see what effects it has.

--Ensure that the information available it of quality, reliable, and understandable. Patients should be able to trust the data. They will not use it otherwise.

Overall, each of these general suggestions comes down to the basic idea of providing information in a clear and easy to understand way that actually helps guide decision-making. Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm knows that it is unfair to suggest that public information does not change outcomes when the only information available is confusing and unhelpful to the consumer. Recent Health Affairs study found that using easy-to-understand elements on heart attack and pneumonia outcomes—with things like stars and dollar signs—led to patients using the information to go to the hospitals that actually performed better.

At the end of the day, as the essay notes, these issues boil down to trust. Medical providers have to trust the public with fair, clear information about their services. Patients have to feel comfortable enough with the information presented to trust it and help them make rational healthcare choices.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Tips for Patients to Become More Involved In Their Healthcare

More Questions Need to Be Asked to Reduce Medical Malpractice