Interim Physicians Blog

Dr. Ken's Corner: Doctors, Patients, and the Blurring of Professional Boundaries

Posted by Ken Teufel M.D. on Mar 22, 2016 11:00:05 AM

The blurring of professional boundaries between physicians and patients is not simply an ethical issue. It's a threat to a physician's reputation, license, and livelihood...not to mention the liability risk.

Some boundary violations are obvious, such as pursuing an intimate relationship with a patient or with a member of the patient's family.  Others are not so clear. Knowing where to draw the line can be difficult, a balancing act between maintaining professional distance and building a warm, caring doctor-patient relationship.

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Topics: social media, Dr. Ken Teufel, doctor-patient communication, doctor-patient relationship, Dr. Ken's Corner, dual relationships, doctor ethics

Dr. Ken's Corner: Medicare to Pay for End-of-Life Discussions

Posted by Ken Teufel M.D. on Dec 16, 2015 8:53:22 PM

Evidence shows that patients who have had end-of-life discussions with their physicians are more likely to die at home or in a comfortable setting, instead of in a hospital intensive care unit. Not only is this seen as a kinder, gentler way to die, it's a lot less expensive than being attached to tubes and machines.

This is, no doubt, the reason Medicare, beginning in 2016, will start reimbursing doctors for having end-of-life talks with their patients. Private insurers are likely to follow Medicare's precedent.

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Topics: Dr. Ken Teufel, doctor-patient communication, doctor-patient relationship, Dr. Ken's Corner, end-of-life discussions, Medicare

Dr. Ken's Corner: Giving Patients Online Access to Lab Results: A Good Idea?

Posted by Ken Teufel M.D. on Jan 7, 2014 5:53:51 PM

Traditionally, physicians have been the first to see their patient's laboratory test results. The patient usually comes into the office for a follow-up appointment at which time the doctor explains the lab results, putting them into the context of the patient's health condition. But what if the patient had immediate online access to lab results, even before seeing the doctor?  How would they react emotionally? This was the question posed in a recent survey of 1546 Kaiser Permanente members.

The findings: Only 1% of patients reported feeling "angry," 2% were "upset," and 4% were "afraid." By contrast, nearly three-fourths (72%) reported being "satisfied," 68% were "appreciative," 49% were "happy," and 46% "relieved." Although the majority reported positive feelings, it should be noted that most of the lab tests are likely to have been reported as being normal and, therefore, less likely to generate anxiety.

The authors of this study caution that providing patients with online access to lab results is no substitute for good follow-up and doctor-patient communication. They add that the way patients react to viewing results online is strongly influenced by whether or not their doctors set expectations in advance. This helps prevent confusion and misinterpretation, and patients are much more likely to react with positive rather than negative emotions.

Source: Journal of Participatory Medicine, Vol. 5, October 3, 2013.

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Topics: Dr. Ken Teufel, doctor-patient communication, Dr. Ken's Corner, lab results, online access

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We write about the healthcare world and all-things locum tenens. From healthcare reform and new technology, to travel tips, and insightful commentary from our Medical Director, Dr. Ken Teufel – we cover what matters most to you. Is there a topic you’d like to read about? Share your ideas now.

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