Should you discuss healthcare reform with your patients?

November 13, 2009

One physician distributed a flier in his waiting room, another doc posted handouts in his exam rooms outlining his support for reform legislation. These are just two examples of how physicians are communicating with their patients about healthcare reform (and where conflicts have arisen). Surely, there have been less formal conversations between doctors and patients about the debate in Washington with mixed outcomes.

One physician distributed a flier in this waiting room answering common questions about healthcare reform (but with perhaps dubious sourcing); another doc posted handouts in his exam and waiting rooms outlining his support for reform legislation.

These are just two examples of how physicians are communicating with their patients about healthcare reform (and where conflicts have arisen). Surely, there have been less formal conversations between doctors and patients about the debate in Washington with mixed outcomes.

But should you be discussing reform? And how?

It’s a topic explored on Kevin MD’s blog and a few of the comments struck me. Some said it was just fine for physicians to voice their opinions to patients, while others said doctors are seen as independent, so weighing in on the political debate could erode that trust.

Here are a couple examples:

“Physicians have the right to their opinion and to express that opinion. I don’t openly discuss my views on healthcare reform while seeing patients (and if I did, the newborns would sleep right though it), but if a parent asks me what I think about something, I tell them.”

“Doctors are the most trusted profession in America, and for good reason. They are seen as independent, and focused only on the science of getting you better. As this article illustrates so well, they put this reputation at risk when they start to bring politics into the equation.”

Considering how contentious the debate has been, it seems impossible to offer only the facts and answer a patient’s questions without divulging your opinion. Will expressing your political views affect how your patients feel about you? Should that stuff be left out of the exam room? Or is it unavoidable because it’s on everyone’s mind?

I am curious to find out how you would broach the topic if a patient asked you to weigh in.