Consumers Uncertain About Their Medical Diagnosis, Treatment
Members who recently sought expert medical consultations from Best Doctors, Inc., expressed deep uncertainty about their initial diagnosis or course of treatment.
The findings are based on clinical reviews of cases of Best Doctors members. Best Doctors is a unique health benefit that calls upon top medical specialists to help members navigate critical decisions about their care.
More than 500 members in the United States voluntarily called Best Doctors for help during the second quarter of 2008. Of those:
* 25 percent said they needed help choosing among treatment options;
* 23 percent questioned whether they needed surgery;
* 16 percent were skeptical of their doctor;
* 15 percent didn't understand their diagnosis;
* 14 percent felt their symptoms were not improving; and,
* 7 percent had no firm diagnosis to guide their treatment.
"There is tremendous uncertainty among consumers about whether they are getting the right diagnosis and treatment,"said Evan J. Falchuk, president and chief operating officer of Best Doctors. "Consumers face hard decisions that impact their lives, as well as the bottom line of employers who pay for their care. Certainty is the one thing people want most when they make tough medical decisions, but it's harder and harder to attain."
Members had legitimate reasons to be anxious about the quality of their care, according to Best Doctors, which offers its service through public and private employers.
The initial diagnosis and treatment received by members was incorrect or inadequately supported in more than two-thirds of the cases. Diagnosis and treatment plans changed after Best Doctors expert clinical case reviews uncovered:
* Insufficient work-ups in 31 percent of cases;
* A more effective treatment strategy in 25 percent of cases;
* Incorrect interpretations of pathology or diagnostic tests in 12 percent of cases; and,
* The treatment was causing patient symptoms in 5 percent of cases.
Falchuk said the complexity of medicine, easy access to conflicting medical information and advice, and the increasing workload of physicians all play a role in fueling consumer uncertainty around diagnosis and treatment, as well as in missteps that lead to incorrect clinical recommendations.
"Our track record shows that the initial diagnosis needs to be changed for one in five members and that treatment needs to be altered for three in five," Falchuk said. "Providing expert medical consultation creates certainty that has a direct and immediate impact on the quality and cost of care. It puts members on a path to better health and it saves money for their employers."
Conditions involving cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases accounted for 19 percent of the cases handled by Best Doctors during the second quarter; followed by oncology, neurology and orthopedics and trauma at 16 percent each; rare genetic diseases, immunology and infectious diseases, and skin, eye, ear, nose and throat conditions at 9 percent each; and, nephrology and endocrinology at 6 percent each.