Patient education

Evidence has shown that intervention by general practitioners can have a significant effect on patients' attitudes to a change to a healthier lifestyle. If we are to make an impact on improving the health of the community, we must encourage our patients to take responsibility for their own health and thus change to a healthier lifestyle. They must be supported, however, by a caring doctor who follows the same guidelines and maintains a continuing interest. Examples include modifying diet, cessation of smoking, reduction of alcohol intake and undertaking exercise.

In an American survey of 360 patients, 90% reported wanting a pamphlet at some or all of their office visits. Overall, 67% reported reading or looking through and saving pamphlets received, 30% read or looked through them and then threw them away, and only 2% threw them away without review. Only 11% of males and 26% of females reported ever asking a doctor for pamphlets. More patients desire pamphlets than are receiving them. 6

Patient educational materials have been shown to have a beneficial effect. Giving patients a handout about tetanus increased the rate of immunisation against tetanus among adults threefold. 7 An educational booklet on back pain for patients reduced the number of consultations made by patients over the following year and 84% said that they found it useful. 8 The provision of systematic patient education on cough significantly changed the behaviour of patients to follow practice guidelines and did not result in patients delaying consultation when they had a cough lasting longer than 3 weeks or one with 'serious' symptoms. 9

There is no evidence that patient education has a harmful effect. Patient education about drug side effects has been shown not to have any detectable adverse effects. 10

One form of patient education is giving handouts (either prepared or printed from a computer at the time of the consultation) to the patient as an adjunct to the verbal explanation which, it must be emphasised, is more important than the printed handout.

The patient education leaflets should be in non-technical language and focus on the key points of the illness or problem. The objectives are to improve the quality of care, reduce costs and encourage a greater input by patients in the management of their own illness. In modern society where informed consent and better education about health and disease is expected, this information is very helpful from a medicolegal viewpoint.

The author has produced a book called Patient Education, which has a one-page summary of each of 197 common medical conditions. 11 The concept is to photocopy the relevant problem or preventive advice and hand it to the patient or relative. Over the years the greatest demand (following a survey of requests for prints of the sheets) has been for the following (in order):

• exercises for your neck

• your painful neck

• exercises for your knee

• breast-feeding and milk supply

• how to lower cholesterol

• breast self-examination

• testicular self-examination

vaginal thrush

• coping with stress

• depression

• bereavement

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Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Beat The Battle With The Bottle

Alcoholism is something that can't be formed in easy terms. Alcoholism as a whole refers to the circumstance whereby there's an obsession in man to keep ingesting beverages with alcohol content which is injurious to health. The circumstance of alcoholism doesn't let the person addicted have any command over ingestion despite being cognizant of the damaging consequences ensuing from it.

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