Doctors can take one lesson from financial advisors

Just as financial advisors spend the time discovering their clients’ retirement goals and how many kids they’re sending to college, doctors need to engage their patients in shared decision-making.

Doctors simply have to hit the pause button before rushing down a treatment path for their patients, even if it’s based on medical guidelines, writes Peter Ubel, M.D., a physician and professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, in a commentary for on MedPage Today.

All too often, physicians determine their patient’s treatment path based merely on their age and the size of their tumor under a microscope. That was proven in a recent study of 200 prostate cancer patients. Ubel was involved in that study and notes that the vast majority of study participants had engaged in little to no discussion with their physicians about their treatment goals.

With prostate cancer specifically, doctors need to have candid discussions with their patients to determine whether the increased chance of bladder control issues or erectile dysfunction will sway them toward monitoring the growth of the tumor with blood tests or biopsies. The flip side of that coin is their patient may prioritize their mental well-being and elect surgery or radiation to eradicate the cancer.

“Patients with early-stage prostate cancer--or any kind of illness where ‘one treatment doesn't fit all’--should not have to push back when they receive medical recommendations,” he writes. “Instead, patients should make sure physicians understand their goals well enough to help them make the right choices.”