As physicians, we often don’t have time to down a cup of coffee, much less spend extra time on patient education, but we might want to rethink this. I’ve been involved in a study that illustrates a strong connection between educating patients about medical technologies and their decision to go forward with necessary treatments.
This study assessed sinus surgery candidates’ opinions on endoscopic sinus surgery before and after the patients went through an educational consultation. Forty-four otolaryngologists from across the U.S. participated.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, we found that education about how the procedure was to be performed by their physician played an important role in patients’ decisions to undergo recommended surgical treatment.
Advances in techniques and technology have considerably improved the patient experience for many surgical procedures; but unfortunately, patients don’t always know about these medical advances, and physicians sometimes underestimate the value of explaining them. Sure, many patients will do research on their own, but our findings illustrate that it’s in everyone’s best interest for physicians to take the time to listen to and educate patients whenever possible.
In this case, we focused on advances used in sinus surgery, such as a newer dissolvable steroid-releasing sinus stent that maintains the open passages created in surgery and improves surgical outcomes. This is important because historically, sinus surgery has had a bad reputation due to lengthy and painful recoveries, causing many patients to postpone or decline surgical treatment even if it’s in their best interest.
Patients increasingly want to be active participants in their care and make informed health-related decisions. However, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and patients don’t always know where to look or what sources to trust.
Studies show that health care providers are the most trusted information source for patients. Effective education from providers and increased patient involvement in health care decisions have been associated with better health outcomes, reduced anxiety, fewer problems after surgery, and improved satisfaction with care.
As the philosopher William Penn put it, “Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” As physicians, let’s make sure we use our precious time to the greatest advantage for both our patients and our practices.
Roheen Raithatha is an otolaryngologist and can be reached at ENT & Allergy Associates, LLP, New York City, NY.
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