Perhaps not too surprisingly, there was a pretty good response to my post towards the end of last month entitled “Pathologists Cannot Talk to Patients? Fuggedaboutit”.
And also not too surprisingly given the issues I raised the battle lines are largely drawn between pathologists and clinicians.
Most pathologists that commented, e-mailed or shared their thoughts on other social media outlets already incorporate some direct patient communication within their practice in many forms, through direct reporting of fine needle aspiration (FNA) results at time of pathologist-performed FNAs, as a resource for patients with questions about their histopathology diagnosis and/or as laboratory medical directors. Of course none of these folks practice in New York state.
The discussion remains popular on the Sermo message boards with many comments from pathologists, oncologists, surgeons and others. For the most part, clinicians question why a pathologist would like to talk to a patient and think discharging the responsibility (and liability) to the clinician should be regarded as a positive for pathologists with the exception of oncologists who largely do not discourage their patients from speaking with a pathologist regarding questions of differentiation or stage of their tumors.
Several physicians from multiple specialties asked why the government was even getting involved in this and questioned if the law would survive a legal challenge.
Unfortunately, there were a few pathologists, including a vocal one on Twitter @SurgPath Atlas who uses the byline “pathologist extraordinaire” that thought the law made perfect sense, we had no role in direct patient communication, that it woud be disruptive and time consuming without any benefit to his/her practice.
A few of his/her thoughts are below. Fortunately, I think SurgPath Atlas is in the minority and most of us do not feel the same way or anticipate what he/she describes. Agree, with 100s of cases, er, I mean patient slides, a week, discussing every single result with the patient, the customer, would not be possible, nor does it exist today for benign and/or gross only or anticipated benign (i.e. hernia sacs) diagnoses.
Nor do I think we can replace the clinician, I am merely suggesting we should be a patient resource on occasion to discuss their clinical laboratory or anatomic pathology results when consulted to do so. And our clinical colleagues and legislators should support the option to do so.
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