Professor David Matz’s career has taken him all over the globe including working with courts and law schools in China and Nigeria, developing policies and practices in Israel, working with Arab and Jewish groups to promote peace talks, and leading the development and assessment of tools for court mediators, judges, and engineers in the United States.
In 2014 Matz began a different kind of journey which has led him through the trials of the health care system. This experience left Matz asking “why” as it relates to tests, procedures, techniques, and opinions. As a conflict resolution practitioner, Matz reflects on his journey and offers suggestions for enhancing the role of the patient in decision-making.
His essay, “A trip to healthcare” which appears in the Patient Experience Journal, sets out where he made his mistakes, why he believes he made them, and how the hospitals-intentionally or not-made good decision-making harder.
“This narrative shares how my experience with two colonoscopies and three surgeries in one year,” says Matz, “taught me that I am not so good at engaging in treatment decisions. I thought I was.”
Matz offers two suggestions for enhancing the role of the patient in diagnostic decision-making.
First, he recommends that every doctor should use the sentence, “You have some choices here.” Although the doctor will have preferences, the patient needs to hear that there is more than one way to take the next step. Second, all doctors (and hospitals) should provide patients with support personnel to help the patients use decision aids, prepare for discussions with doctors, and make the decisions.
Research shows that patient involvement in medical decision-making leads to better medical outcomes, decreased health care costs, and increased patient satisfaction.
Matz concludes, “Uncertainty in medicine is inevitable; our bodies are enormously complex and variable, our collective ignorance about how they work is huge, and the best run systems are still run by humans. In that world, how far can we go to give patients confidence that the health care system is working in the interest of the patient’s health?”