People are increasingly demanding more scrutiny of doctors and hospitals.
What is behind this?
A report by the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics found that nearly 60% of the doctors surveyed felt pressured to change their prescribing practices after a baby died in the hospital.
Another 23% said they were asked to change treatment plans because of concerns about patient safety, the authors said.
But it was the doctors who felt the most pressure to change, and they were also the ones who often felt they had to be in the dark, said Dr. Joseph G. Gagnon, one of the authors of the study.
“A lot of physicians, when they hear these stories, they assume that they have been influenced by these pressures,” said Dr.-elect Michael J. Davenport, professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University and a lead author of the JAMA study.
Dr.-elect Gagnons study also found that doctors were the ones most often asking for changes to the way they treat people with chronic illness, like heart disease and cancer.
In the study, doctors were asked how often they asked patients to sign “crisis letters” in the past 12 months, and whether they would have any follow-up for the patient or whether they had been asked to refer a patient for treatment.
A majority of doctors responded that they had at least one such letter in the last 12 months.
When asked about the need to change patients’ treatment plans, doctors also were more likely to say they felt pressure to do so.
“Doctors are increasingly facing a growing sense of urgency to act on patients’ health concerns,” the authors wrote.
“There is no shortage of patients needing to receive appropriate care and the need for prompt and effective communication is evident in a variety of clinical situations.”
The doctors who said they had received such letters reported feeling pressured to take action to ensure patient safety.
But when asked whether they believed the letters were meant to pressure them to change a patient’s care, they said no.
“I think it is difficult to say that we were influenced by those letters,” said one doctor, who did not want to be identified.
Dr.-Elect Gagnones study also suggests that doctors are not just being asked to follow patients’ wishes, but also to be their eyes and ears.
“The pressure is on,” he said.
“It is about being their eyes, ears, and hands.
There is no room for ambiguity.”