Choosing Wisely Canada Talks

Earlier this month, I participated in a Choosing Wisely Canada Talks webinar. Drs Kimberly Wintemute and Anthony Train shared insights around a clinician's professional obligations and led a discussion around practical tips for having conversations with patients in these scenarios. You can see their talk and others in the Choosing Wisely Canada Talks series online.

This primary care discussion was incredibly relevant, and we covered a few tough topics including:

  1. A healthy patient requesting non-indicated screening blood work
  2. A patient requesting unnecessary imaging eg. MRI for lower back pain
  3. When a naturopath has told patient to ask MD to order a series of blood work
  4. A patient with a viral infection insisting on antibiotics
  5. Chronic use of sedatives/hypnotics including benzodiazepines in an older patient

It was great to have a mixture of people, including a patient voice, in the webinar. Some of the themes that emerged were around building a trusting relationship, exploring the patient's fears or goals and addressing those, having a discussion about risks vs benefits, using analogies/humour to convey a message, and using physical exam and other techniques to reassure patients.


"Choosing Wisely Talks take place on the 1st Thursday of every month from 12pm-1pm ET. Each workshop is led by an inspiring guest speaker, usually someone who has made significant gains in implementing the Choosing Wisely recommendations. Through a webinar format, participants tune-in to a live presentation by the guest speaker, followed by an interactive Q&A discussion. Participants usually leave each workshop with:

  • A greater appreciation for the impact of overuse
  • Ideas and inspiration for their own Choosing Wisely implementation project
  • A better grasp on potential barriers and opportunities to successful implementation"

 

Go to the website and use the right-hand menu to add these valuable events to your calendar or sign up for the newsletter. The next session is November 3rd from 12-1PM Eastern Time.

Difficult patients. Sigh! (Impact of patient requests on provider-perceived visit difficulty in primary care)

"No ma'am, your thumb isn't broken. I suspect the pain is as a result of pressing your call bell over 43 times in the last hour."

"No ma'am, your thumb isn't broken. I suspect the pain is as a result of pressing your call bell over 43 times in the last hour."

Sometimes physicians talk about the "difficult" patient with exasperation in their voice.  Nurses know these cases even better.

Most patients and families can tell your about a doctor or nurse who was terse, arrogant, disinterested, or even callous.

These encounters can be "soul-sucking," "difficult," and "draining." The individuals are labeled as "entitled," "unrealistic," "demanding," or ... worse.

That's not ideal terminology although the truth is that some patient encounters are harder than others, and we can't always figure out why. If we have a frustrating appointment, we equate the difficulty with the person, not the situation. As physicians, we often blame the patient!

"It's a personality disorder." "She's a rich, demanding snob." "He refuses to accept this."

On the surface are our attitudes, biases, and skill sets. Just like "difficult" doctors, "difficult" patients are, in our eyes, not open-minded, have not mastered skills of effective communication or listening, don't want to be told they are wrong, demand ridiculous things, or dig their heels in despite evidence that contradicts them.

Sometimes stubbornness is advocacy and it is necessary. Sometimes asking lots of questions is essential to developing an understanding from which a partnership can follow.

There is usually more to the story than just a clash of the personality of the clinician and the patient, and the health care provider should be sensitive to this; empathy means acknowledging that other people have "stuff" going on in their life. Fear, anger, embarrassment, uncertainty, and anxiety are among the many emotions that can make a clinical exchange sour.

With time and worldliness, and maybe some training, we grow and learn to help sort through that. Interestingly, the kind of encounters that health care providers find difficult are generally around people asking for tests.

According to Fenton et. al's paper, Impact of Patient Requests on Provider-Perceived Visit Difficulty in Primary Care, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine:

[Primary Care Provider] (PCP)-perceived visit difficulty is associated with patient requests for diagnostic tests, but not requests for pain medications or specialist referrals. In this era of “choosing wisely,” PCPs may be challenged to respond to diagnostic test requests in an evidence-based manner, while maintaining the provider–patient relationship and PCP career satisfaction.

They looked at 824 clinical encounters. Even adjusting for medical and psychiatric conditions, it was asking for tests that made clinicians rate the encounter as more difficult.

Fortunately, there are tools to help with this. A (not well curated) collection of Shared Decision Making tools is available on this site. Another time, I'll write about the evidence of efficacy (or lack thereof?) behind these aids.

The Choosing Wisely campaign is a prominent effort to facilitate these conversations about unnecesary tests. The Canadian and American sites both have many educational resources to help us with discussing diagnostics and therapeutics, and the AAFP has a great article on difficult patient encounters

It's not rocket science. We must remember that patients are human beings. Hopefully they will extend us, as providers, the same consideration.

At least he used the sensitive kind of tooth paste?

At least he used the sensitive kind of tooth paste?

Finally: yes, some people, whether doctors, patients, nurses, or family members, are just plain jerks.

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2537383...

Demanding Patients? Not so in Oncology

Surveyed physicians tend to place responsibility for high medical costs more on “demanding patients” than themselves. However, there are few data about the frequency of demanding patients, clinical appropriateness of their demands, and clinicians’ compliance with them.

Exactly. This JAMA Oncology paper looked at 5050 patient-provider encounters in the oncology context and found that patients requested things in 8.7% of the encounters, and these demands were only considered inappropriate in 1% of encounters.

Number and Types of Patient Requests or Demands (JAMA Onc)

Number and Types of Patient Requests or Demands (JAMA Onc)

I think we need to be very careful about blaming patients. I do it... but I'm getting better at seeing the bigger picture. Yes, sometimes they are in the stage of denial and struggling to cope with their diagnosis. They may ask for completely inappropriate tests or treatments. Sometimes their expectations are absolutely ridiculous but most of the time this is not the case. The patient is not crazy or 'demanding.' A lot of the time it is we clinicians who put some of the more unrealistic expectations on people's radar.

Educating patients wouldn't change this, except if we can encourage them à la Choosing Wisely to initiate discussions with their physicians about unnecessary tests and treatments.  Educating the clinician, particularly encouraging transparency and openness in communication is really important. However, the biggest thing we can do is to change the overall culture of the health 'system' and our society to make it "okay" to talk about these issues frankly.

I work quite frequently with oncology patients, often in a supportive or palliative role. I find it shocking that many of them have never discussed dying, have not made advanced care plans, and do not understand the goals of their treatment. Often a patient is receiving palliative therapy and yet they believe it is a curative therapy. They may demand aggressive medical treatment, not realizing that they are very close to dying.

Sometimes, when I liaise with the oncologist, he or she explains that they had frank discussions about these things, and I can see it in the notes. It's just been hard to accept and people don't really hear what has been said. Other times, "it just never came up." I find that that hard to believe. It should come up. Shouldn't it?

Not talking about the end of life is doing a patient a disserviceHow can they make decisions about their care without knowing what is going on? It also suggests - as made clear by this study -  that inappropriate interventions might be coming from the clinician, not necessarily initiated at the behest of the patient.

What do you think?

Source: http://oncology.jamanetwork.com/article.as...