3 ways to manage patient expectations in the ER

The shift to patient-centered care can create conflicts in the emergency room when a doctor's diagnosis and suggested course of treatment don't meet patient expectations.

And this conflict has become more common as patients turn to the Internet for medical advice and self-diagnose their problems before they head to the ER, writes Catherine Polera, D.O., chief medical officer at Sheridan Healthcare's Division of Emergency Services, in a piece for MedPage Today.

She suggests providers use the following strategies to defuse the tension when their clinical decisions conflict with patient expectations:

  • Educate patients: Clinicians who take the time to explain that the recommended treatment plan is in line with evidence-based practices, medical research and regulatory guidelines can help their patients leave the ER satisfied with the care they received. As an example, Polera says, a mother insistent that her child receive antibiotics even though the doctor determines the medication won't cure the child's virus, may benefit from an explanation about the differences between a viral and bacterial infection.
  • Use the Internet to your advantage: To patients who place greater trust in a Google search for healthcare information than medical decision-making, Polera has used her own Google search to show patients that her medical decision was valid.
  • Earn patient trust: Take the time to answer all of your patients' concerns and questions so they understand the rationale for the recommended treatment. "Time is a scarce resource in any emergency department, but educating patients and helping them understand the validity of your treatment decisions will return a big payoff in patient satisfaction and better outcomes," she writes.

To learn more:
- read the article