The Which consumer magazine in the UK has just published the results of an undercover investigation of 30 GP practices in the UK.
Their specially trained fieldworkers posed as patients with one of three conditions to judge the quality of the visits. They made hidden video and audio recordings for a panel of experts to review.
The undercover patients were a woman at possible risk of a stroke because of her medication; a man wanting sleeping pills to cope with undiagnosed depression; and a woman with symptoms that could point to an underlying heart problem.
The results were not good. 12 out of 30 visits – 40% - were deemed poor, 14 were good and 4 were satisfactory.
The key problem in all but one of the 12 poor consultations was poor history taking with the doctor “not asking good enough questions to decide on the right course of action for the patient”. All of these had implications for the patient’s diagnosis, for example the risk of missing a patient's risk of stroke.
The report also highlighted how the patients, in this case fieldworkers who were trained but were not doctors, were good judges of whether their consultations had been poor as their views coincided with the views of the expert panel of doctors who watched the videos of the consultations.
This very interesting study once again highlights the importance for patients of researching their symptoms using a symptom checker before they see their doctor so they can make sure that the right questions are asked and considered. This will also make them more active members of the consultation and give them more conviction to pursue their concerns.