The Communicated Prognosis

The Communicated Prognosis

After formulating a prognosis, a physician must then decide what to communicate to those patients who inquire. Research shows that in addition to the unconscious optimism in the formulated prognosis, there is also some conscious optimism in the prognoses physicians subsequently communicate to their patients.

In one study of physicians referring terminally ill cancer patients to hospice, the physicians were asked how long they thought their patient had to live and also what prognosis, if any, they would provide to their patient if the patient inquired (Lamont 2001). The investigators found that the median survival the physicians would communicate to patients was 90 days, their median formulated survival was 75 days, and the median observed survival was 24 days.

This study suggested that the prognoses that are communicated to patients from their physicians may be more optimistic than what their physicians actually believe, which again is more optimistic than what actually occurs.

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