February 19, 2018 – Critical Conversations


Anchor lead: Do families and doctors walk away from critical meetings with the same understanding? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Doctors may be unintentionally optimistic when conveying difficult information. That’s one interpretation of a study by Renee Boss, a neonatologist at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, looking at the content of such consults between physicians and parents of critically ill children. Boss says there’s at least one way to address the issue.

Boss:  It’s about saying specific things. I’m worried that your son may not walk. I’m worried that your son may not talk. These very specific predictions I think can really help families imagine what it might be like to have a child who’s going to be in a wheelchair. These sorts of very specific predictions might be really helpful to people and I think they can be taught. So I think the biggest opportunity to change what’s happening would be to emphasize communication skills in medical training much more than it is now.  :33

Boss says other studies support the idea that families welcome realistic prognoses. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.