Research Article

Patients' reactions to their investigations: a study of 504 patients.

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 15 September 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:638
  1. C Hawkins


    Five hundred and four patients who had undergone hospital investigations were interviewed to find out how much information they had been given about the tests; their reactions before, during and after the test; and any after effects. In 74% of cases the tests had been satisfactorily explained. Patients were told more about complicated procedures such as cardiac catherisation than about routine ones such as venepuncture or barium meal examinations. The comments doctors made while performing the investigations were generally reassuring and were only rarely worrying or impatient. About half the patients suffered pain or discomfort during the test and rather more complained of after effects. Only 5% of patients said they would refuse the test again, though 36% said they would agree only reluctantly. Communication lies at the heart of the problem. Hospitals should consider issuing handouts on investigations to back up the doctor's information and to dispel myths. Staff should be more careful in concealing frightening-looking equipment, and if patients have to wait during investigations it may help reduce their anxiety if they are provided with something to occupy their time.