Hospital surveys indicate lack of patient awareness of diagnoses and treatments, yet physicians report they effectively communicate with patients. Gaps in understanding and communication could result in decreased quality of care. We sought to assess patient knowledge and perspectives of inpatient care and determine differences from physician assessments.
Two validated questionnaires assessed the experiences of inpatients treated by house staff from October 10, 2008, through June 23, 2009. We surveyed corresponding internal medicine resident and attending physicians, asking them to report on their care of hospitalized patients and their understanding of their patients' perspectives on the care received.
Eighty-nine patients and 43 physicians participated. Although 73% of patients thought there was 1 main physician, 18% correctly named that physician, compared with 67% of physicians who thought patients knew their names (P < .001). Most physicians (77%) believed patients knew their diagnosis; however, 57% of patients did (P < .001). A total of 58% of patients thought that physicians always explained things in a comprehensible way, compared with 21% of physicians who stated they always provided explanations of some kind (P < .001). Two-thirds of patients reported receiving a new medication in the hospital, yet 90% noted never being told of any adverse effects of these medications. Nearly all physicians (98%) stated that they at least sometimes discussed their patients' fears and anxieties, compared with 54% of patients who said their physicians never did this (P = .001).
Significant differences exist between patients' and physicians' impressions about patient knowledge and inpatient care received. Steps to improve patient-physician communication should be identified and implemented.