1. free from pretense or deceit
2. easily detected or seen through
3. readily understood
4. characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices
I am regularly struck by how much research patients often do before coming to the doctor. The Internet provides a full gateway of information and, unfortunately, misinformation about diseases, treatments and the system of medical practice. The Internet has been an effort to provide greater transparency in how we practice medicine and deliver healthcare. The written word seems to hold great validity to patients.
Transparency is fundamental to the creating of trusting, nurturing relationships with each other, particularly between clinician and patient. If for a moment the patient believes that communication and information provided is full of pretense, lies, or is not understood, there is immediate breakdown of the relationship and (if medical social scientists are correct) the cooperation of the patient in his/her care or "compliance". So the real question, is there transparency in medicine?
The reality is that transparency is scary to clinicians and the system as a whole. There are elaborate efforts to fully but not completely, reveal the secrets of medicine and medical practice. The Internet has done major things to this "gap" but rely on patient understanding, so would seem to violate "readily understood" transparency. Has the Internet then helped or hurt?
Transparency in the system is really up to the clinician. It's not the patient role or within his/her ability to force transparency through the Internet or available information sources. While it's all "out there", it may not be all understood and may actually contribute to damaging the relationship between physician and patient as they often believe what they read over what is being said.
So in that lies the greatest opportunities for improving patient care, trust and compliance...creating transparency with each patient we encounter. Yet there are risks in doing so as magnified by the legal system. However, taking risk offers great rewards. We should embrace our fear with honesty and transparency. But that would be in the perfect world with tort reform, liability caps and a system that supports that perspective. I'm not optimistic.
Another surgeon quit working this week. Tired of dealing with being questioned by everyone about how he practices. Another good surgeon, out to pasture.