ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Acupuncture Eases Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
BONES & JOINTS
Majority of College Students Report Backpack-Related Pain
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Vitamin D Plus Calcium Guards Against Fractures
CANCER
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Smoking Ups Risk of Second Breast Cancer
CAREGIVING
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
Study Casts Doubt on Influential Hospital Safety Survey
Distance No Bar to Kidney Transplants in Remote Areas
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Review Confirms Links Between Diet, Heart Health
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Study Links Osteoporosis Drugs to Jaw Trouble
DIABETES
Out-of-Control Blood Sugar May Affect Memory
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Brown Rice Bests White for Diabetes Prevention
DIET, NUTRITION
Many Kids Don't Need the Vitamins They're Taking
Functional Foods Uncovered
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Bed Bugs Bring No Disease Danger
Green Areas Lower Health Inequities Between Rich, Poor
Hurricane Threats: Time to Batten Down the Hatches
EYE CARE, VISION
Just Like Skin, Eyes Can 'Burn' in Strong Sun
Antioxidant-Rich Diet May Protect Against Eye Disease
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
FITNESS
Basketball Star Details His Struggle With Gout
Walking Golf Course Affects Swing, Performance
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Standard IQ Test May Underestimate People With Autism
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Cherry-Enriched Diet Cut Heart Risks in Rats
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
Arteries Age Twice as Fast in Smokers
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Help Your Kids Stay Active
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
Gene Variation Found in Boys With Delinquent Peers
MEN'S HEALTH
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Low Vitamin D Levels May Boost Men's Heart Attack Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
A Little Alcohol May Stave Off Alzheimer's
Using the Mind to Heal the Heart
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
SENIORS
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Tai Chi May Help Ward Off Knee Pain in Seniors
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Bitter Melon Extract May Slow, Stop Breast Cancer
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
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Many Hospital Patients Can't ID Their Doctors

FRIDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Most hospital patients cannot identify -- by name or role -- the doctors assigned to their care, a new case study of one urban hospital suggests.

"The majority of hospitalized patients we looked at were not able to name anybody in charge of their care," said study author Dr. Vineet Arora, associate program director at the University of Chicago's internal medicine residency program. "And when they did name somebody, they got it wrong, incorrectly naming their primary care physician or some specialist. This reflects the fact that patients are seen by a lot of different doctors and teams, and they may simply not know who's in charge of their care."

"Of course," Arora added, "it's hard to know how generalizable this is, as we only looked at one institution. But I suspect that the findings are probably reflective of the current situation at a lot of urban teaching hospitals."

The authors noted that the institution used for the new study, the University of Chicago, is what's known as a "teaching hospital." Such hospitals "not only care for patients but also train the students and residents who are there under the supervision of a board-certified faculty physician," Arora explained.

Patients in teaching hospitals are typically attended to by larger teams of caretakers than at non-teaching hospitals. And Arora said that handoffs among assorted teams of health-care providers -- including physicians, interns, sub-interns, fellows, attending residents and medical students -- can present incoming patients with a "confusing environment."

For the study, Arora and her colleagues interviewed 2,807 people admitted to the inpatient general medicine service at the University of Chicago in 2005 and 2006. Three-quarters of those surveyed were unable to name anyone in charge of their care. Of those who gave at least one possible name, 60 percent gave an incorrect answer.

Yet, 56 percent of the patients said their understanding of their doctor's role was either "very good" or "excellent."

The University of Chicago team reported its findings in a research letter published in the Jan. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

A number of factors -- both patient-related and hospital-related -- seemed to influence a patient's inability to identify caretakers. Blacks, the elderly, those with less than a high school education and unmarried people had more difficulty identifying their physicians. Also, people admitted in an emergency room setting or at night by a graveyard shift (or "floating" team) were less likely to be able to identify their caregivers, the study found.

Still, 64 percent of the 1,901 patients who participated in a follow-up interview a month after being released from the hospital said they were "very satisfied" with their doctors.

The study authors said that teaching hospitals should nonetheless devote more attention to improving patient awareness of their caretaking team and the roles played by individual physicians.

"I'm a medical educator -- I teach students and residents," Arora said. "And I think it's important that we teach them to actively introduce themselves in a way that patients can understand what their role is."

But patients should also act to empower themselves by taking a proactive approach to identify those caring for them, she said.

She noted that some states have made a concerted effort to help patients in this way. The Lewis Blackman Hospital Patient Safety Act in South Carolina, for instance, mandates that "all clinical staff, clinical trainees, medical students, interns and resident physicians of a hospital shall wear badges clearly stating their names, their departments and their job or trainee titles -- in terms or abbreviations reasonably understandable to the average person."

But, one expert suggested that such consumer-friendly steps aren't enough, and that the responsibility for addressing the problem lies with medical professionals -- not patients.

"So the hospital staff -- and that means the doctors, the nurses, the residents and even the guy who cleans the room -- simply has to explain to patients again and again and again who they are and what their role is, whenever they go into the room," said Dr. Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer of Indiana University Hospital, which is a teaching hospital, and associate dean of student affairs at the university's School of Medicine.

-Alan Mozes

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has tips for talking with your doctor.



SOURCES: Vineet Arora, M.D., M.A., assistant professor, department of medicine, and associate program director, residency program, internal medicine, University of Chicago; Herbert Cushing, M.D., chief medical officer, Indiana University Hospital, and associate dean, student affairs, Indiana University School of Medicine; Jan. 26, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine

Last Updated: Feb. 13, 2009

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