Providing letters to patientsBMJ 1998; 316 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.316.7147.1830b (Published 13 June 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;316:1830
Patients find summary letters useful
- N Hallowell, Senior research associate
- Centre for Family Research, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 3RF
- South Essex Breast Screening Service, Westcliff on Sea, Essex SS0 0SB
- Department of Medicine for the Elderly, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
- Gastrointestinal Research Unit, Leicester General Hospital, Leicester LE5 4PW
EDITOR Essex raises some interesting points about the value of giving patients a written summary of their consultation.1The practice of sending patients a letter summarising their consultation is very common in genetic counselling.
A colleague and I have completed a qualitative interview study exploring patients' attitudes about and their use of written summaries of their genetic consultations for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.2 Like Essex, we found that patients responded very positively to these letters. Altogether 37 (93%) out of 40 patients in the sample said that the summary letter aided their understanding or recall of information that had been given in the clinic, or both. The written summary was also perceived as valuable because it could be shown to other clinicians to support the patient's case for gaining access to breast or ovarian screening programmes, it reassured patients that they were taking appropriate action, and it contained information about other relatives' risks. In addition, the written summary was also perceived as a useful tool for disseminating genetic information to other family members; 34 (85%) out of 40 patients said they had used, or intended to use, the written summary of their counselling session to facilitate the communication of genetic information to …
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