5
Oct

Doctors don’t communicate well about terminally ill patients

Cancer specialists and primary care physicians are not communicating very well about the end-of-life concerns of the patients they share – and according to one new study, they often rely on those patients to convey information back and forth.

Researchers in the Netherlands found that end-of-life discussions are rarely a subject of direct, interprofessional communication.

Although the study, published in the journal Family Practice, reflects European realities, its findings likely resonate across the siloed American health system, too.

“Most patients in the U.S. have many doctors, and if each is doing their own little thing, no wonder patients are confused,” said University of Washington professor and oncologist Dr. Tony Back, who was not involved with the study. “The primary care doctor says, ‘I think I should talk about end-of-life care with this patient,’ and the oncologist says, ‘We have another treatment to try.’ The patient is saddled with sorting that out, and it’s not fair.”

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