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Informed Patients Have Better Outcomes

Test anxiety is more than a student worrying about an upcoming examination as the angst accompanying an upcoming medical test may continue even after the test returns with a ‘normal’ result. A new study finds that giving patients prior information about diagnostic tests can help improve patient outcomes and give reassurance.

Providing reassurance is a large part of doctors’ and other health professionals’ roles. Yet many patients remain anxious about their condition even when the test does not reveal any particular problems.

According to a study reported in the British Medical Journal, these patients often continue to be concerned about their condition, use drugs inappropriately and seek medical help from other health professionals for their symptoms.

Previous research suggests that by the time patients undergo tests they have already developed negative ideas and beliefs about their symptoms – thereby making any post-test reassurance from doctors less effective.

Researchers in New Zealand set out to analyze whether giving patients information about the meaning of normal results prior to testing would improve reassurance following medical testing.

Ninety-two patients with chest pain referred for a diagnostic exercise stress test took part in the study.

They were split into three groups – the first received the normal sheet of information on the test, the second received a pamphlet, which detailed the test and included an explanation of the meaning of negative test results. The final group received the pamphlet and met with a health psychologist to discuss the test and the meaning of results before testing occurred.

Before the test, patients were asked to complete a questionnaire and rate how worried they were about their health. Patients who received a normal test result were then asked to complete another, similar, questionnaire. One month on the same patients took part in a follow-up interview.

At follow-up patients in the third group (pamphlet and discussion) reported less chest pain, were more reassured by the test and tended not to be taking cardiac drugs compared to patients in the other groups.

After a month, most patients in the first group (usual information only) were not reassured by the investigation and overall reassurance was more likely to decline with time.

The authors conclude that providing patients with explanations of negative test results before the test takes place are more likely to have improved rates of reassurance and reduced the likelihood of future symptoms.

Source: British Medical Journal

Informed Patients Have Better Outcomes

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Informed Patients Have Better Outcomes. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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