From the Director
Research Activities September 2011, No. 373
It's a fact: patients with more than one medical condition are becoming more common and their care more costly. Patients with multiple conditions often need more of everything—more time, treatments, and tests. And the more we do, the greater the chance of complications and confusion.
When I think about complex patients, I think about my father, Patrick, who died last October. He was the father of seven children, a husband, and an accountant who turned around bankrupt companies. In his late 70s and 80s, my father had several chronic illnesses, including lung disease, early Alzheimer's disease, and heart problems. He took 18 different medicines and was on oxygen at home during his last year of life, which he hated. He was extremely fortunate to have great doctors, a loving family, and a terrific wife who was essential to his enjoying life beyond dealing with health issues.
But even with more support than many patients have, my father still had difficulties. He needed to be re-admitted to the hospital because of a miscommunication about the blood-thinner drug he was taking. Miscommunication is the source of many medical errors. And communicating effectively can be very challenging when dealing with the broad array of regimens often needed to maintain the health of complex patients. Researchers are investigating ways to proritize treatment and preventive care for these patients.
At the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, we've awarded 47 grants to researchers and clinicians seeking ways to provide better care for patients with more than one condition. Their work is as complicated as their patients' medical conditions, but it's needed. After all, there was only one man like my father, but there are many patients like Patrick.
Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D.