How Do We Balance the Long-Term Health of a Patient With the Short-Term Risk to the Physician?

Academic Article


  • Background There is a wide variation in practice patterns among emergency medicine physicians; many factors weigh into the medical decision-making process including the health of the patient as well as short-term risk to the physician. Objective The objective of our discussion is to illustrate specific scenarios where medical decisions are focused on the physician's short-term risk, then to propose an approach to shifting the balance to the patient's long-term health. Methods Using recent data on the evaluation, disposition, and outcomes of patients with low-risk chest pain in the emergency department, we calculate the risk of outpatient evaluation compared to the common practice of admission or observation. Results Patients with low-risk chest pain and negative initial evaluation in the emergency department with 2 normal cardiac biomarkers, normal vital signs, and non-ischemic, interpretable ECGs, have an extremely low-risk of a short term clinically relevant adverse cardiac event. There is a suggestion of a higher patient risk from admission, prompting consideration that continued evaluation of the chest pain as an outpatient may be safer than admission or observation. Conclusion A test/intervention should be done if the risk of a missed diagnosis or adverse outcome is greater that the risk of the test/intervention. Involving the patient in the decision-making process may help to shift the management balance from the physician's short-term concern of their own risk, to the patient's long-term health.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Weinstock MB; Mattu A; Hess EP
  • Start Page

  • 583
  • End Page

  • 585
  • Volume

  • 53
  • Issue

  • 4