ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
New Spray Could Benefit Cystic Fibrosis Patients
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Acupuncture Eases Side Effects of Head, Neck Cancer Treatments
Health Tip: Anticipating Acupuncture
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Active Young Women Need Calcium, Vitamin D
Occupational Therapy Plus Exercise Benefits Osteoarthritis
Autumn Sees More Women With Bunion Problems
CANCER
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
Papaya Could Be a Cancer Fighter
Study Cites Gains in Gall Bladder Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
Mild Flu Season Coming to a Close
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
DENTAL, ORAL
Mom's Vitamin D Levels Affect Baby's Dental Health
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Scientists Find Gene for Tooth Enamel
DIABETES
Lifestyle Factors Tied to Older Adults' Diabetes Risk
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Holiday Eating Without the Guilt -- or the Pounds
Pesticides and How to Affordably Eat Organic or Reduce Pesticide Consumption
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Green Tea May Ward Off Eye Disease
Nearly 18 Million Will Have Macular Degeneration by 2050
Impotence Drugs Don't Harm Vision: Study
FITNESS
Moderate Aerobic Exercise Lowers Diabetics' Liver Fat
Want to Stop Cancer? You Can, Experts Say
Be Healthy, Spend Less
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
GENERAL HEALTH
Simple Exercise Precautions To Help Keep Baby Boomers Fit
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Keep Safety in Mind While Your Kids Are Cooling Off in the Water
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
Surgical Masks Could Prevent Flu, Maybe
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Physical Activity May Prolong Survival After Colon Cancer
MENTAL HEALTH
Worries About Weight Are Tied to Teen Suicide Tries
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
Mediterranean Diet Plus Exercise Lowers Alzheimer's Risk
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Simple Carbs Pose Heart Risk for Women
Heal Your Life® Tips for Living Well
Exercise, Weight Control May Keep Fibromyalgia at Bay
Add your Article

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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