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Doctors' Insight Into Patients' Lives May Boost Care, Study Finds
Date:4/15/2013

MONDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- Health care outcomes improve when patients inform their doctors about what is going on in their lives, according to a new study.

Researchers found that discussion about personal matters that may be clinically relevant -- such as problems with money or transportation -- allows doctors to gather important information that will help them individualize care.

"What our study really tells us is that the information that patients divulge during appointments about their life situation is critical to address and take into account if we're looking for optimal health care outcomes," study lead author Dr. Saul Weiner, professor of medicine, pediatrics and medical education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a university news release.

In conducting the study, researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had about 800 actual patients secretly audio record visits with nearly 150 different doctors at two VA facilities in Chicago. Although all the doctors involved in the study agreed to be involved in the study, they did not know which patients would be recording their conversations.

"Incognito audio recording provides accurate information about how doctors practice that you can't obtain any other way," the study's co-author, Alan Schwartz, professor and associate head of medical education at UIC, said in the news release.

The doctors were scored on how well they individualized patients' care and considered important red flags that could impact health outcomes, including financial problems, lack of transportation, competing responsibilities and social support.

Failure to address these issues can lead to "contextual issues," the study authors said. "If the patient has, for example, a chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension that's going out of control, we would say that's also a contextual issue and probably
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