Friday, July 2, 2010

Are patients becoming immune to device recalls?

Laurie Racenet, EP Insights blogger and device nurse at the Alaska Heart Institute, poses an intriguing question: “Are patients becoming immune to device recalls?”

In her post, “Device Recalls and Patient Reaction,” Ms. Racenet explains her surprise in getting only a handful of phone calls after a recent device recall. She speculates that this might have been due to patients’ growing indifference toward frequent recalls.

She asks: “Are we doing such a wonderful job of communicating device recalls that patients are less anxious, and therefore don’t feel the need to call?” or “Have we had so many recalls and sent so many letters that patients are beginning to ignore us?”

Neither. I believe lack of understanding is partially to blame. After all, if all patients understood that a fractured lead may provoke an unwanted storm of inappropriate shocks or that replacing a recalled faulty battery will risk an infection years earlier than previously expected, we’d all be anxious.

In my view, most of us don’t know enough about device therapy to truly evaluate our risks when faced with a recall. And if we don’t understand it, we can’t grasp its consequences and Ms. Racenet gets fewer phone calls.

Sadly, doctors don’t spend nearly enough time educating their patients. I realize that in a world of declining reimbursements, no one has time for that. So, doctors will focus on the positive and not spend any time discussing adverse events or the possibility of a recall.

The good news is that modern technology is bringing together patients and helping close this gap. Today, patients are becoming connected and exchanging lots of useful information on treatments, sharing experiences, talking about brands and discussing recalls. And this might be yet another reason why Ms. Racenet isn’t getting as many phone calls as she used to.

Patients aren’t ignoring doctors. We’re just finding the information we need elsewhere. Often from each other.

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