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Communicating Risks of Surgery When the Stakes Are High

For patients who have to undergo a serious surgery, one of the most terrifying aspects can be not fully understanding what “high risk” really means, and what the potential worst-case scenario outcomes are.

For patients and doctors alike, communicating these risks can prove difficult. Patients may not know which questions to ask, and may not understand medical terms even when questions are answered by a doctor. In order to improve surgeon-patient communication during high-risk surgeries, a new communication tool is being studied. If it proves to be effective, it may become commonplace prior to surgery across the nation.

Best Case/Worst Case Communication Tool

The best case/worst case communication tool, which is often simply referred to as the BC/WC tool, is designed to help patients understand the risks of surgery. The tool relies on a number of features, including graphics, that transforms complex medical information into a synthesized, easy-to-comprehend fashion. The surgeon may also use narratives to explain to a patient what may happen and to explain a patient’s different options about surgery, such as choosing ventilator care. The BC/WC communication tool is designed to be used for patients undergoing an array of high-risk surgeries, and who are of a variety of ages. In order to use the tool, doctors attend a two-hour coaching and application session.

The Importance of Doctor-Patient Communication

The importance of doctor-patient and surgeon-patient communication cannot be overstated. Not only does communication help a patient to understand all of their options and the risks associated with a procedure, as well as a procedure’s benefits, but it also reduced the risk of medical malpractice and surgical errors. Knowing as much about a procedure as possible can also prove comforting to a patient and to their loved ones.

The BC/WC communication tool may be a step in the right direction, but further study on surgeon-patient communication, and the best way to foster communication, is necessary. An article published in Medscape regarding the BC/WC communication tool states that when it was being studied, the study’s authors described a number of challenges associated with the tool, including difficulty in training surgeons who are busy. Another challenge for surgeons is in regards to the number and intensity of resources that are necessary for proper best case/worst case scenario training.

Talk To Your Surgeon

If you are about to undergo a surgery, whether that surgery is high risk or not, you should talk to your doctor about it first and make sure you ask questions and are engaged in the process. Participating actively and prioritizing communication reduces your risk of becoming a victim of a medical error.

If medical malpractice does occur, and you suffer harm as a result, our experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Law Offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C. can assist you in filing a claim and seeking damages. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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