A new study has revealed that patients these days are so well informed that they like to participate equally with doctors in clinical decisions that affect their care.
Published in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, the study attribute patients' increased knowledge to their lifestyle and technology that influence them to make ever-increasing demands and expect to be listened to, and fully involved in clinical decisions.
During the study, Dr. J. Bohannon Mason of the Orthocarolina Hip and Knee Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, looked at the changes in society, the population and technology that might be influencing the way patients viewed their orthopaedic surgeons.
The researcher says that the patients' attitude to medicine changes as they gain knowledge, and they stop showing their doctors absolute and unquestionable respect.
Demographic change, education, affluence, availability of information via the Internet, patient mobility, direct-to-consumer marketing, patient age, patient activity demands, cost pressures and physician accountability, all combined together make the practitioner face a patient who is more informed and has higher expectations than any prior generation of patients.
In today's date, patients do not simply have a medical complaint; they look for a particular operation and even a particular implant. They do not consider the doctor as the sole source of medical information.
They are bombarded with enough snippets of information to encourage a dialogue and clearly express their expectations for a particular outcome and technique to achieve that outcome. They also demand quicker recovery, return to higher-level sport activity and earlier discharge from the hospital.
"Patients have come to expect miracles in medicine as the norm, yet these miracles are not without inherent risk," cautions Mason.
The responsibility to provide the patient with true patient-cantered care relies on doctors' ability to supply patients with accurate, evidence-based information and to improve communication.
However, patients do not get motivated just by evidence-based medicine, they are often willing to adopt the promises of direct-to- consumer marketing.
According to Mason, the doctor's responsibility is "to maintain control of validated information sources and of the exchange of information with the patient. [Doctors] need to be interpreters and balancers of scientific information to help guide [their] patients through the maze of medical hyperbole. [They] need to discuss new treatments and technologies openly and honestly."
And crucially, they must also understand that although patients' demands are changing, the surgeon's accountability and responsibility for their patient's safety and care have not.