MU hosting conversation on importance of talking with your doctor

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COLUMBIA - Just how well do you know your personal physician? Well, it may be more important than you might think.

The MU School of Health professions is hosting a conversation to discuss the importance of communications and relationships between care takers and patients. Dr. Peter Ubel, a leading Duke researcher on the complexities of relationships of patients and physicians, will be speaking in the student center on MU's campus at 7 p.m. Thursday evening.

Dr. Victoria Shaffer, an associate professor in MU's Department of Health Sciences, said patient emotions play a large factor when contemplating a personal health decision.

"The role of emotions are really prominent in a lot of the medical decisions you make," Shaffer said. 

Shaffer said cancer is a prime example of a time in which emotions are spiking during decisions.

"So if you think about cancer related decisions, emotions are really high," Shaffer said. "The consequence of that is that we make sub-optimal decisions when we have really high level of emotions that are running though us, so we want to make decisions quickly."

Shaffer said temporary feelings that make patients feel comfortable at the moment are not always the best long-term choices.

"Emotions themselves can cause a lot of irrational responses," Shaffer said.

Shaffer said the relationship between patients and physicians is often clouded by one party having knowledge of a certain situation.

"Patient-doctor relationships are complicated because the doctor has all the information and the patient has none of the information," Shaffer said. "Yet, the patient has all the information about what they value and the doctor has none of that information."

Shaffer said general communications between patients and doctors is very important to making smart medical choices.

"Somehow, the two of them have to get together to have an exchange in information," Shaffer said. "The patients have to say what they value, and the doctor has to provide information in a way the patient can digest."

Shaffer said conversations, such as the speech Thursday evening, allow for the public to grasp just how important these relationships are.

"I don't think a lot of people consider the relationship they have with their doctor," Shaffer said. "I think it will be helpful for people who are taking the role of the patient to think about what questions they could ask their doctor and how they can learn to express their values."

Shaffer also said caretakers in the audience can learn more about how to better approach conversations with their patients.

The conversation Thursday evening is free and open to the public.