You Have Cancer…Blah Blah Blah

After you get diagnosed with a serious disease like cancer or even a chronic condition like diabetes, do you remember anything the physician says?  Someone once told me that patients remember something like 12% of what the physician says after that (I couldn’t find the source).  Another person shared with me that their physician told them to go home and call them later to talk about all their questions. 

This is the extreme example, but a situation that repeats itself day after day.  Patients learn that they have a disease.  In some cases, they’ve been searching for an answer to their symptoms for a while, and there is a sense of relief followed by anxiety.  In other cases, they had a minor problem which leads to identification of a much more serious issue. 

I talk about this because in some cases we start this patient on a course of therapy that they don’t understand or a drug which has side-effects they didn’t expect.  Health literacy is a big enough issue, but not understanding the receptiveness of the patient based on environmental issues such as shock is a big deal. 

We (as a healthcare system) have to continue to help close this gap to educate consumers and leverage the broader care team including physician, pharmacist, and caregivers to help patients understand their condition and the next steps they need to take.  Trisha Torrey does a good job of laying out a series of steps for you to take beginning with acknowledging your fear.

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