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Educating Patients

Educating Patients…That Have No Idea What’s Going On… – Jason M., OT

It has been stated many times that we live in “The Information Age”. I fully agree with this statement with respect to the fields of health care. With anatomy charts in our pockets on handheld devices, drug books and practice guidelines stocking bookshelves, and the fathomless amount of medical information flying around the internet, clinicians have no reason to be uninformed. Why does it seem, however, that much of this information does not get shared with patients?

I cannot tell you how many times I have evaluated a patient for therapy services who is several days, sometimes weeks, down the course of their medical treatments who still knows very little about their pathology, precautions, prognosis, or potential. How do these patients go through the hands of so many qualified, caring medical professionals with nobody actually explaining what is going on? Here are some of my considerations:

– The current medical climate places a lot of pressure on productivity, especially on physicians. With limited time, physicians often jump from room to room, patient to patient, making their rounds. With such limited face time, not much value is places on educating the patient, more on assessment and treatment.

– There is an inherent “assumption” that somebody has explained everything to the patient before their next step. Assuming this, a proverbial checkmark is placed that the patient has been educated, and they are moved on to their next phase of medical care without anyone actually educating them.

– In addition to the previously mentioned assumption, we as medical professionals tend to knuckle down, zone in, and put our nose to the grindstone when working with patients. Since we know all the information about their case, we are educated and can provide treatment, we don’t consider the option to pass this information on to the patient.

Gain some empathy and consider everything that is going on from the patient’s perspective. Don’t make the mistake of treating a patient and forgetting that they are a person with a different academic, social, and economic background than you. Sometimes basic anatomy and biology are not common knowledge to them.

For “The Information Age”, having uninformed, undereducated patient is unacceptable. I encourage you to make a change. Give your patients some of your time and ensure that they are educated and familiar with the details of their medical treatment. Effort with therapy treatments is more easily given when they understand how the exercises relate to improving their independence. Compliance with precautions is higher when they understand the surgery and healing process associated with them. Outcomes are always higher when the patient is looking at their progress from the same angle, perspective that you have.

 

In summary, give time to your patients. Pass on the knowledge you paid for in college and earned in the clinical setting. You may even surprise yourself by learning something new, or that you didn’t know as much about a topic as you thought you did. Above all, your patients with trust, appreciate, and respect you more if you just talk and listen to them. In “The Stone Age”, to succeed, you needed the biggest club. In “The Information Age”, knowledge is the best tool. For our patients, the road to recovery is a long one, so do your part to help them succeed.