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Measuring What Is Important to Patients

Here in this post, we are discussing “Measuring What Is Important to Patients”.  You can read more about psychology-related material on our website. Keep visiting Psychology Roots.

A significant component of medicine, especially mental health treatment and medical research, is concentrated on eliciting symptom reports from patients. These symptoms may include pain, depression, anxiety, and any other symptom a patient may encounter. Obviously, the best approach to evaluate these symptoms is to question patients directly. However, how and what we ask patients may make a significant impact.

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A little more context may be useful here. First, these questionnaires are also referred to as patient-reported outcomes, self-reported questionnaires, surveys, instruments, scales, and measures. They employ comparable forms in which patients are asked a series of questions and given a prepared list of answer options. For instance, a query may inquire, “How much pain are you experiencing right now on a scale of 0 to 10?” where the answer possibilities are the digits 0 to 10. Second, the questions are often selected by a physician, mental health professional, scientist, or even a machine, therefore the questions asked are predefined. These surveys are important for comparing treatments in clinical trials and determining whether or not a patient is progressing.

Measuring What Is Important to Patients
Measuring What Is Important to Patients

A new way to measure patients’ symptoms

You may see that this description has very little information on what is important to each particular patient. I also observed this. So I devised a new method of questioning regarding symptoms. I devised a method for patients to select the questions that were most significant to them and tested it in a recent study published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. Rather than selecting the questions myself or having another health care provider or scientist do so, I allowed patients to select the questions that were most relevant to them. We administered a set of 35 questions to individuals suffering pain to determine the extent to which discomfort interferes with their life. Then, we asked the participants to choose the four life quality questions that were most significant to them.

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The study’s findings demonstrated that one size does not fit all. Only one of the 35 questions was selected by a majority of participants, and even then it was barely over 50%. The importance of several factors on participants’ quality of life varied significantly. Some were worried about the impact of pain on their cognitive abilities, while others were more concerned about the impact of pain on their social activities. Other participants were worried about their ability to work (including housework) while in discomfort. We employed a contemporary statistical approach to score the questions so that even if individuals answered the questions differently, the scores could be compared in research investigations.

Importantly, we discovered that patients preferred our individualised pain scale over typical pain scales that ask everyone the same questions. Although this research focused on pain, the same idea might be applied to other complaints. Depression and anxiety are very individual experiences. What questions work best for one individual may not be optimal for another.

Anxiety is a perfect example. Some individuals react to worry by continually seeking reassurance that everything is okay. Others react by completely avoiding everything that causes them worry. We may utilise the same technique for anxiety and depression that we did for pain to quantify what is crucial to each individual patient, rather than making assumptions.

Now, this is a single study, and further research is required to confirm if this strategy is effective for other people and symptoms. However, it demonstrates that patients may demonstrate what is personally significant to them. If we adjusted the questionnaires we fill out at physicians’ offices to the values of each patient, they would be far more informative.

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