[567] The Pathologist in the Era of Personalized Medicine: Patient and Physician Perceptions

Thanh T Ha, Jerome B Taxy. University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Background: The emergence of "personalized medicine" is creating pressure for an increasingly broader role for pathologists, given their unique laboratory training. Anecdotally, some patients and physicians may not understand the pathologist's role in patient care within a multidisciplinary medical team. Efforts to rectify these misperceptions may benefit from better understanding of the nature of this misinformation and how it may hamper communication. The current study seeks to evaluate how patients and other physicians perceive and interact with pathologists.
Design: Separate questionnaires were anonymously administered to physicians (attending physicians, fellows, and residents) and non-health care professionals of at least 18 years old using the free website "surveymonkey.com."
Results: Of the 36 patients who participated, 61% had tissue removed and 100% had laboratory tests performed. 53% have seen their laboratory or pathology report. 86% did not inquire nor were told by whom the result of their test or biopsy came about. Finally, 19% think that pathologists are laboratory technologists. Most of the physician participants (n=16) are family physicians. All have interacted with pathologists, most frequently via a biopsy, multidisciplinary conferences, teaching, and frozen section.

Interactions Between Pathologists and Other Physicians
 %, n=16
Interpretation of a biopsy87
Multidisciplinary conferences73
Frozen section67
Interpretation of a laboratory test60
Evaluating the utility and relevance of a laboratory test40
Obtaining a biopsy33
Autopsy service20
Implementing a new laboratory test13

Although 87% think pathologists are "very important" to patient care, only 67% of the surveyed physicians inform their patients a pathologist was involved in their care. While 60% have patients who requested to see the pathology report, a significantly smaller proportion (6%) have patients who requested to speak with a pathologist.
Conclusions: The majority of physicians in this study understand and highly value the contribution of pathologists to patient care. However, this may reflect an intrinsic bias where physicians who view pathology positively to be more likely to participate in the survey. Although many patients request the pathology report, only a minority wants to speak with a pathologist which may reflect the nature of the test or illness, lack of time, or misperception that pathologists are laboratory technicians. Further studies are needed to better understand whether better access to patient-pathologist communication would contribute additional value to patient care.
Category: Education

Monday, March 19, 2012 9:30 AM

Poster Session I Stowell-Orbison/Surgical Pathology/Autopsy Awards Poster Session # 87, Monday Morning


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