Providing information for patients

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a280 (Published 16 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a280
  1. Elizabeth Murray, reader in primary care
  1. 1Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London N19 5LW
  1. Elizabeth.murray{at}pcps.ucl.ac.uk

    Is insufficient on its own to improve clinical outcomes

    Patients consistently report wanting more, and better, information about their health, health care, and treatment options. Providing this information is challenging. One approach is coaching patients to ask questions during consultations. In the linked study (10.1136/bmj.a485), Kinnersley and colleagues report a systematic review which shows that this approach has relatively little effect.1 So what is the underlying rationale for improving health information for patients, and what interventions are likely to work?

    Some people argue that improving patient information and educating patients about their health problems is ethically essential and needs no further justification.2 Others point to the benefits of patient education, in terms of improved self care,3 enhanced patient satisfaction,4 improved health status,5 and reduced healthcare expenditure.6 Improving clinical outcomes, however, needs more than just information—it requires a partnership between patients and their health professionals, with the patient actively engaged in self care.

    People living with long term conditions face three challenges: medical …

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