She noted that some states have made a concerted effort to help patients in this way. The Lewis Blackman Hospital Patient Safety Act in South Carolina, for instance, mandates that "all clinical staff, clinical trainees, medical students, interns and resident physicians of a hospital shall wear badges clearly stating their names, their departments and their job or trainee titles -- in terms or abbreviations reasonably understandable to the average person."
But, one expert suggested that such consumer-friendly steps aren't enough, and that the responsibility for addressing the problem lies with medical professionals -- not patients.
"So the hospital staff -- and that means the doctors, the nurses, the residents and even the guy who cleans the room -- simply has to explain to patients again and again and again who they are and what their role is, whenever they go into the room," said Dr. Herbert Cushing, chief medical officer of Indiana University Hospital, which is a teaching hospital, and associate dean of student affairs at the university's School of Medicine.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has tips for talking with your doctor.
SOURCES: Vineet Arora, M.D., M.A., assistant professor, department of medicine, and associate program director, residency program, internal medicine, University of Chicago; Herbert Cushing, M.D., chief medical officer, Indiana University Hospital, and associate dean, student affairs, Indiana University School of Medicine; Jan. 26, 2009, Archives of Internal Medicine