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Family Physician Personal Stories

FDA Patient Safety News - March, 2002 - Show #2 FDA is calling attention to a study called 'Family Physicians' Personal Experiences of Their Fathers' Health Care'.


Anita Rayner, Associate Policy Director, FDA: This time we want to call your attention to a study called "Family Physicians' Personal Experiences of Their Fathers' Health Care", by Dr. Frederick Chen and others. It appeared in the September 2001 issue of The Journal of Family Practice (JFP). This is a study in which several senior physicians were asked to report on the healthcare their fathers received during a serious illness. It's an unusual study, made up of a series of in-depth interviews, and it sheds a lot of light on how patients and their families interact with the healthcare system, and particularly how they react to adverse events and medical errors. One recurring theme in this article, the one most closely tied to promoting patient safety, is the need for each patient to have an advocate to act as a guide and a watchdog in negotiating the healthcare system. The article said: "The physicians in this study felt strongly that patients needed an informed, accountable advocate. Each witnessed events and situations where such an advocate was absent when needed." And the article points out that this function should be the role of the patient's primary care physician. It says: "Healthcare systems could affirm the continued presence of one physician who is in charge of the patient's care and accountable to the patient and the patient's family." But the article also acknowledges that family members sometimes have to take on this role. It says: "As a patient's medical care becomes increasingly complex, the advocate becomes more important and, ironically, more elusive. In many cases, the responsibility for being the advocate fell to the physician family member." In any case, there's food for thought in this article about whether the patient's family may have a role in helping to promote safety and prevent adverse events.

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