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The consequences of a diluted doctor-patient relationship

The American health care industry is going through tremendous changes. One of the changes most apparent to patients is the dilution of the physician-patient relationship. In the past, a single doctor would be the patient's primary point of contact for their health care needs.

Now, a patient's relationship with a physician is watered down with nurses, physician-assistants (PAs) and hospitalists all assuming duties that once belonged to the doctor. While this different process isn't necessarily a bad thing, it does increase the likelihood that communication errors will occur between personnel and expose the patient to harm.

The discontinuity of health care is what leads many to file medical malpractice claims. The patient feels like he or she is being passed from one health care professional to another, with little communication between them. This game of patient "hot potato" also removes the aspect of complete, one-person accountability that doctors used to owe to patients.

Although the modern process of health care creates a greater risk of communication errors, it also offers advantages;

  • More professionals reviewing a case means it is more likely that a major mistake or oversight will be caught early
  • Advances specialization in the medical industry leading to better health care
  • Lowers the cost of health care

Source: Insurance Journal, "How Health Care Reform Is Challenging Medical Malpractice," June 16, 2014

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