A Letter from Dr. Price
Patients’ families frequently ask me if a recommendation I am making would be the same if the patient were my wife, sister or mother. The answer in every case is yes. I use the same standard for each woman who comes to me. My approach to medicine is based on a simple ethical guideline: one should always treat one’s patient as they would want to be treated themselves.
When a patient calls my office with a problem, I try to make her problem my own. The best way I have found to do this is to explore her life situation, her attitudes about her body and expectations about her health. I try to get to know her and win her confidence – because no matter what lies ahead for that patient, being able to communicate comfortably with her doctor will help.
Most patients who are referred to our office are understandably anxious, not only about the diagnosis for which they have been referred, but also about what will happen next. They may worry that the examination or treatment will be painful or embarrassing, that the medical personnel they encounter will be rude or unkind.
Our practice is committed to maintaining a high level of kindness and understanding at every step of the process. We know that patients need to be brought into our systems gently, and with respect for their own needs and timetables.
The Preliminary Interview
In order to allay anxiety, we try to make personal contact with each new patient as soon as possible and take a medical history over the telephone. Frequently these interviews occur on the day that the referral or appointment is made. A member of our staff and I conduct these interviews, and we take our time. We encourage patients to take their time, to tell us their story in their own way. This is a chance to get to know each other – a process that in itself helps to relieve anxiety. It helps to have a friendly conversation before a difficult appointment.
When a patient is referred to our practice, we don’t want them to have to wait for an appointment. We keep slots for new patient appointments open on the schedule, and sometimes we can see a patient the day she is referred. We encourage all our patients to have family members stay with them during their appointment, if that is most comfortable for them. Patients are offered privacy and autonomy throughout the examination, and after the exam patients and family members join me in the consultation room for an extended discussion of the current problem.
At all times, patients are encouraged to ask questions and get to know us.
In the consultation room, I go over patients X-rays with them, which I have found to be an extremely clear way to illustrate a patient’s condition. I often draw a picture of the anatomy of the area in question, show them the findings of my examination, and give patients a copy of my notes.
Sometimes I do an internet search while the patient is in the room so that I can show her the latest information about a topic. There is no substitute for establishing confidence in your specialist when you have a serious illness.
We never pressure patients to make treatment decisions. I encourage each patient to consider other options, obtain second opinions. We can provide phone numbers and addresses of other specialists, and facilitate trips to other centers for evaluation.
Patients’ wishes form the basis for each treatment plan. We are eager to provide all information possible so they can understand why one particular treatment is better than another or why I am making one recommendation over another. These are complicated decisions, and sometimes even the medical community is itself confused about effective treatment plans. It is important, in my view, that the patient hear about current management controversies and resolve them for her own situation on her own terms. My function is as a teacher and ally.
Part of the treatment planning process is reviewing materials that have led to a diagnosis or a referral. Generally, I like to confirm a pathologic diagnosis or review diagnostic images such as ultrasounds, CT scans and MRI scans.
Gynecologic Oncology is unique in medicine, in that our training includes cancer epidemiology and statistics as well as clinical medicine. We are qualified to perform specialized surgery related to cancer and other conditions, assist with radiation planning and treatment, and administer and supervise chemotherapy.
After the treatment is complete, we continue to care for our patients as long as they are at significant risk for recurrent disease or complications from therapy. In the immediate post-treatment period, patients are seen frequently. After several years, appointments are scheduled less frequently, depending on the acuity of the initial problem.
Communication with patients, their families, and their referring doctors continues to be crucial after the decisions are made and treatment is begun. All test results are given to patients directly by our staff. Phone calls are made as soon as biopsy results are available. CT scan reports are discussed immediately. We pride ourselves on being accessible. Having been patients ourselves, we recognize the importance of rapid transmission of test results to our patients.
Each patient is asked which other doctors should be included in communications by our office. For each patient visit, a letter is sent the same day to the referring doctor, the primary care doctor, and any specialists the patient designates to receive correspondence. In that way, the physicians who play an important role in a patient’s well-being will know the results of our encounters.
I hope this letter clarifies what you can expect from us, and relieves some of your anxiety. If you need to ask us anything, or tell us anything, please don’t hesitate to do so, by email or phone call or whatever works best for you. The only reason we’re here is to help you.
Fredric V. Price, MD
Download Dr. Price's Curriculum Vitae