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After ER visit, many patients in a fog, U-M study finds
Date:7/16/2008

would ask for more help," says Peter Ubel, M.D., a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School. "This study shows that many patients walk away from important clinical encounters confident that they know what happened and why, but with little reason to be so confident."

The researchers measured the extent to which patients' reports agreed with their doctors' records in four areas: diagnosis, emergency care that was given, post-ER care needs and what kinds of symptoms or signs would require the patient to return to the ER or seek immediate care.

Only 22 percent of patients' reports were in complete harmony with what their care teams reported on all four counts.

Fifty-eight percent of patients understood at least two of the four areas, but 20 percent were off on three or four areas of their care and follow-up needs.

After asking patients about their diagnosis, care and post-ER instructions, the team also asked them if they were not sure about any of the four areas. Interestingly, patients whose understanding perfectly matched their doctors' records were just as likely to report being unsure as patients whose understanding was lacking.

"Doctors need to not only ask patients if they have questions, but ask them to explain, in their own words, what they think is wrong with their health and what they can do about it," says Ubel. "And patients need to ask their doctors more questions, and even need to explain, to their doctors, what they think is going on."

The biggest area of misunderstanding or lack of comprehension was post-emergency care that is, what steps the patient needs to take to be seen by their regular doctor or a specialist, how soon to see a doctor, or what medicines or self-care steps they need to take, how to take them, and when.

Ubel, Engel and their colleagues found that 34 percent of the deficiencies in patient comprehension reflected a less-than-complete understanding of what
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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