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New York Times Article on Informed Patients by Cleveland Clinic Doctors


  • March 9, 2017

  • Rachel Taliciero, DO, Director of Postgraduate Enrichment, Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, Office of Patient Experience at the Cleveland Clinic presented a moving session on the power of empathy at Patients as Partners US on March 3, 2017. During the session, she focused on putting patients first and discussed how the Cleveland Clinic became the first major academic medical center to make patient experience a strategic goal.

    Taliciero’s colleagues, Dr Mikkael Sekeres, Director of the Leukemia Program, and Dr Timothy Gilligan, Director of Coaching at Center for Excellence in Healthcare Communication, wrote an article printed in The New York Times on March 7, 2017, titled, “Informed Patient? Don’t Bet on It” (pg. D6). An excerpt of the article is below, listing Dr Sekeres’ and Dr Gilligan’s requests and recommendations to better inform patients and to work with them as partners.
    “So here’s our request:
    • Ask us to use common words and terms. If your doctor says that you’ll end up with a “simple iliac ileal conduit” or a “urostomy,” feel free to say “I don’t understand those words. Can you explain what that means?”
    • Summarize back what you heard. “So I should split my birth control pills in half and take half myself and give the other half to my boyfriend?” That way, if you’ve misunderstood what we did a poor job of explaining, there will be a chance to straighten it out: “No, that’s not right. You should take the whole pill yourself.”
    • Request written materials, or even pictures or videos. We all learn in different ways and at different paces, and “hard copies” of information that you can take time to absorb at home may be more helpful than the few minutes in our offices.
    • Ask for best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios, along with the chance of each one occurring.
    • Ask if you can talk to someone who has undergone the surgery, or received the chemotherapy. That person will have a different kind of understanding of what the experience was like than we do.
    • Explore alternative treatment options, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. “If I saw 10 different experts in my condition, how many would recommend the same treatment you are recommending?”
    • Take notes, and bring someone else to your appointments to be your advocate, ask the questions you may be reluctant to, and be your “accessory brain,” to help process the information we are trying to convey.
    We’ve seen too many patients regret decisions that they made without fully understanding their options, or the possible outcome. We encourage our patients, and our colleagues, to be partners in what are often life-changing decisions about health care.”
    Read the entire piece in the The New York Times article.