From medications to end-of-life, HCPs find value in sharing their most challenging patient questions

It's a well-established fact that healthcare providers (HCPs) often struggle to keep up with the enormous amount of content that emerges every day from the annals of clinical literature. But there’s another category of medical knowledge that is just as important, and perhaps just as challenging to address – the questions that patients bring to their clinical visits.

A recent segment on our web and mobile communities invites HCPs to share some of the tough questions that their patients have been asking– from health concerns triggered by the media to those that are more philosophical in nature.

Hundreds of members of the community posted examples of patient questions that have them stumped, and responded to their peers’ dilemmas with their own advice and real-world examples. We also asked four of our expert faculty to share their wisdom, based on their respective areas of expertise.

It’s another great example of how we keep our HCP community active and engaged, and highlights the opportunity for our clients to leverage this community to engage their target audiences in high value content that supports better clinical decision making.

Here are just a few of the featured questions and excerpted responses. 

If I use many medications, and that makes my lab results normal, does that mean I’m healthy?

“…I believe that health is the ability to carry out our goals and dreams within the constraints of our age and abilities reasonably unencumbered by the constraints of illness, whether that be physical or mental illness.  If it takes medications to be healthy, so-be-it.  That is why we use medicines.  If you feel good, are active and engaged in life, and have normal lab values, with or without the support of medications – then you are healthy!”
–Neil Skolnik, MD, Professor of Family and Community Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, Associate Director, Family Medicine Residency Program, Abington Memorial Hospital

“Am I going to die?” – always a VERY difficult question to answer especially when dealing with cancer, end-stage COPD, etc.

“…It is well-documented in both the oncologic and critical care literature that most physicians resist prognostication of death and those that do usually considerably overestimate. This is understandable but is generally not in the patient’s and family’s best interest, leading to increased invasive procedures, costs and inappropriate delay in application of Hospice/palliative resources.

It is best, therefore, whenever possible, to answer these questions honestly and in accordance with evidence-based data rather than base opinions on clinical acumen and intuition (as is usually done and has been found to be extremely inaccurate). It is not appropriate to answer these questions anecdotally.

In the dying process, pain and symptom control are paramount, of course, but I think that other factors such as maintaining personal dignity and avoiding isolation are almost equally important. Patients usually have a strong desire, even if not verbally expressed, for the physician/nurse who know them the best to be available to discuss their situation and simply be available to them. Physical or even emotional abandonment is a great fear of many of our patients.”

–Frank Brodkey, MD Pulmonologist, University of Wisconsin

From a patient scheduled for surgery is asking me if I would go to his surgeon, one I would definitely not go to.

“…The answer to your question depends on a few different factors: what procedure is the person having done, and how urgent is the condition? If it’s a case of acute appendicitis, it doesn’t matter who the best surgeon is: I’m happy to have one that is available to help. If it’s an elective outpatient procedure, I think it’s okay to be honest with the patient. Tell them the surgeon they’re scheduled to see is board certified, has been in practice x number of years, and is certainly qualified to help them. However, in your experience you’ve worked with Dr. Y and given the choice that’s who you would choose to see.”
–Sajid Khan, MD, Emergency Medicine Physician, University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine

Why can’t you make my insurance plan pay for my treatment/tests/etc. if they are medically necessary?

“…As a caregiver, the best you can do is make your patient aware of these complexities. Urge them to call their insurer’s patient services number, explain the situation, and ask for a detailed explanation in writing as to why a medical service was or was not covered.”

This popular feature is now a regular feature in our communities – giving our members a venue to share the unique experience of caring for patients from all walks of life and find real value in the exchange with peers and experts (all of whom post using real names and credentials). After all, a big part of practicing medicine well is the ability to address not just the physical needs of patients, but their intellectual needs, too.

For more information on opportunities to leverage this active, engaged community for your own targeted messaging strategies, contact us at

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