Tuesday, April 17, 2012

 Simple Questions:  A Simple Innovation with Positive Health Results

A question not asked is a question not answered.
Robert Southey (1774-1843), The Doctor XII, Robert Southey was an English poet.
A focus on the quality of life helps medical providers see the big picture – and makes for healthier, happier patients.
Laura Landro, “Simple Idea That is Transforming Health Care,” Wall Street Journal, April 16, 2012

April 17, 2012 – Yesterday I spoke in my post of how the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) – had been redesigned  with the hope of identifying and creating medical students destined to become more humanistic doctors. 

I said I thought the medical schools might be overcomplicating a relatively simple situation – producing doctors expressing concern and  showing understanding of a patient’s total life situation.

In the April 16 Wall Street Journal, Laura Landro, who writes the "Informed Patient" column The Journal, explains how doctors who ask the simple question, “How is your health affecting the quality of life?" are transforming patients’ health and lives for the better.

This improvement  is even more dramatic when  nurses and trained counselors regularly follow up with questions like these:  Is your condition inhibiting your life? Does your disease make it hard to cope from day to day?
The results of these questions and concerns?   Fewer hospitalizations, fewer ER visits, fewer missed work days, and above all else, a heightened sense of  well being with better health and a lower use of the health system.
Landro  explains that these questions tend to produce trust in the health system and these elements of well-being:

·        Supportive relationships

·        Positive emotions and moods

·        Absence of depression and anxiety

·        Satisfaction with life

·        Optimism

·        Extroversion.
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
And these positive impacts on health behavior:
·        Half as likely to visit the emergency room

·        Half as likely to be hospitaliized

·        20% less likely to spend money on prescrition durgs

·        Likely to spend 60% less on health care.
Source: Patricia Harrison et al,  Evaluation of the Relationship Between Individual Well-Being and Future Health Care Utilization and Cost.

Moral of the Tale
What is the moral of this health care tale? Simply this:  When doctors, nurses, and conselors show concern about the patient’s well-being by asking simple questions about how their condition is affecting their life style, ability to cope,  and relationships with others,  better health with lower health care utilization ensues.

Tweet:  Doctors and nurses asking ,” How is your condition affecting your life and how do you cope?” make patients healthier, wealthier, and wiser.

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