Mesothelioma Patients Encouraged to Address Perceived Errors in Their Medical Care With Their Physicians
Mesothelioma patients often undergo rigorous, aggressive care and treatment after their diagnosis. Whether a patient undergoes surgery, chemotherapy or radiation, there are many points within the treatment plan where any misstep could potentially cause harm. However, according to a new study, even if a patient believes he experienced an error during treatment it is unlikely he will report it.
In a survey conducted by Meyers Primary Care Institute and the University of Massachusetts, researchers set out to explore “cancer patients’ perceptions of preventable, harmful events.” Of the 416 cancer patients interviewed, 93 believed something had gone wrong in their care that was preventable and caused or could have caused harm.
However, the researchers found that just one-third of the patients discussed the event with the doctor or nurse they believed was responsible. Just ten of them reported the issue to the hospital administration.
If patients do not discuss the issue, Kathleen Mazor, lead author, points out, they have no way of knowing whether the issue was real or not.
“Sometimes patients think that something has gone wrong and it hasn’t. But if you never tell anybody… they never have a chance to say, ‘This is how it always goes,’ or, ‘We couldn’t prevent that,’” she said.
Although there may be many reasons for not reporting an issue, the authors believe many of the patients do not want to disrupt their relationship with their doctor, do not want to dwell on past events or are grateful for all the other good care they have received.
“When people are undergoing something like cancer, they really feel they need to put all their energy on looking forward,” said Mazor. “They’re thinking about getting better, moving forward, dealing with cancer and coming out the other end.”
Mesothelioma patients are encouraged to cultivate open, honest communication with their mesothelioma specialists in order to maximize their care. By empowering themselves to question their doctor and to partner with them during their care, patients will be able to raise issues quickly and maintain an effective relationship.
Issues encountered by the surveyed patients included: delay in diagnosis or treatment; communication problems; medical care. Of the reported issues, the patients perceived physical and emotional harm, disruption of life, effect on family members, damaged physician-patient relationship and financial harm.
The authors of the study concluded, “Systems are needed to encourage patients to report such events and to help physicians and health care systems respond effectively.”
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