Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Checklists Are Best Left to Doctors

Checklists have their place as a diagnostic tool, but they're best used by doctors and kept out of the hands of patients. It make sense when you think about it; hypochondriacs will run down the list writing that they have everything from ebola to parkinson's, while other people won't mention the fact that their speech recently became slurred and their left side is completely numb because they see admitting pain as a weakness. But now there's a real study to back it up.

American Medical News (the newspaper of the American Medical Association) is reporting that written screening tests can confuse some patients, and may have their effectiveness limited by "deficiencies in literacy." How deficient? Only about 16% of the 300 men over 40 understood all of the questions on their test survey. Worse yet, 28% misunderstood all of the questions.

That's not even counting the people who suck at math (politely described as "innumerate" in the article). I know I have a tough time even answering the doctor's verbal questions. "Is it a stabbing pain, a shooting pain, or a burning pain?" Hell if I know. Are you going to stab, shoot, or burn me for comparison? I hope not.

Am I the only one who has a tough time explaining what's wrong with me to my doctor?

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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