Patients not only need medical care but also emotional and educational support from their healthcare team. Treatment can be a daunting experience, but a good medical team can assuage patient fears for an easier healing experience.
Preparation Paves the Way
One method to reducing patient anxiety during hospitalization or treatment is Preparatory Patient Education (PPE). When patients face “threatening events,” they experience a deep-rooted fear of the unknown and of future pain, embarrassment, or adverse effects. In providing education, healthcare professionals can limit fear of the unknown and combat misinformation that increases patient anxiety.
For example, PPE for cancer treatment can amend the common misconception that radiation therapy is dangerous by giving patients sufficient information to interpret their symptoms. In clarifying the details of disease and treatment, PPE allows a patient to develop some familiarity with the situation, making it less daunting.
How Does It Work?
There are many kinds of PPE, but researchers have identified techniques that lead to high patient adherence and lower anxiety. PPE can be classified into two categories: technical information and preparatory education. The former consists of information detailing the process of a medical procedure. The latter focuses on coping strategies and sensory information.
Patients appreciate knowing the basics of their procedures, but too much technical information can worry them. Thus, modern PPE tends to focus on the latter category and provides information about how patients will feel during treatment and which recovery techniques will be most beneficial.
PPE may depend on the way information is communicated. While an “ad hoc” approach, in which doctors respond to patient questions, is common, ensuring a complete preparatory education requires a more structure. Additionally, patients who receive information earlier, especially before treatment, tend to have lower anxiety than those who enter treatment without complete information. By presenting information in a preemptive, structured format, HCPs can reduce patient biases that cause them to reject information.
Information can be presented in various ways. One-on-one interactions between patients and doctors facilitate answering specific questions, but these sessions are time consuming. Hospitals have experimented with other techniques – group discussions, pamphlets, and instructional videos. Videos lack the emotional benefits of interpersonal interactions, but are low-cost option.
Studies have shown that patients who receive structured PPE tend to have fewer complications and shorter hospital stays, and more satisfaction with their doctors. In fact, the data demonstrates anxiety levels are correlated with strength of side effects.
Patient Adherence and Satisfaction is Optimized
A key way PPE improves healthcare is increased adherence among patients. Studies have shown that patient willingness to participate in recovery activities and to comply with medical professionals is improved by preparatory education.
Patients tend to be more satisfied with HCPs who communicate, which creates mutual respect and are more satisfied with healthcare teams who spend more time with them. Patients who respect their doctors are more likely to listen to directions and follow them continually. Further, a comfortable relationship between doctors and patients helps facilitate asking questions and allows for ongoing education.
The preparatory aspect of PPE is important in improving doctor-patient relations. Patients who enter treatment with high levels of anxiety tend to shift their frustration onto caregivers and treatments. Subsequent distrust of caregivers can lead to patients becoming uncooperative, refusing to disclose necessary information, or not following caregiver directions.
In addition, patient adherence requires that they recall their doctor’s instructions. PPE helps reiterate these points so patients can fit specific instructions within a larger explanation of treatment. This repetition of accessible ways to learn about treatment is key to patient recollection.
One key way PPE improves patient recollection is its psychological effects on memory. High stress levels can make recalling information difficult. By reducing anxiety, PPE helps patients retain more information.
What Does This Mean?
PPE impacts adherence and success of testing and treatment by:
PPE also improves patient adherence to guidelines, improving post-treatment health while reducing the need for extended or repeat hospital stays. All of this may initially seem an additional burden for HCPs but, in the long run, outcomes are improved, and healthcare management is optimized.