Overestimating What Patients Understand
Recently, I read a very insightful blog on the Center for Advancing Health website written by Jessie Gruman, PhD. Dr. Gruman observes that healthcare providers have a tendency to overestimate what patients actually understand about their office visit and their underlying medical conditions. Dr. Gruman notes:
“Many people don’t know the location of key organs (e.g., heart, lungs) even those in which their medical problem is situated.”
The Language of Medicine is Inherently Confusing
In my specialty, urology, patients are faced with a variety of similar sounding anatomic terms with vastly different meanings. The ureter, for example, is a tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside world. In women, a portion of the ureter and the urethra reside within the pelvis along with the uterus.
It’s easy to see how patients might find these terms confusing and easily interchange them.
Even seasoned healthcare providers find themselves, from time to time, inadvertently interchanging these terms.
Visualizing Urology – A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
In our office, we have large illustrations of the urinary tract on the wall in each of our exam rooms. These illustrations make it easy to point out the anatomic structures of the urinary tract, and to show how these structure relate to one another.
The wall illustration also helps us more easily discuss imaging findings and surgical options with our patients. Our current system works well when patients are in the office, but it doesn’t help patients after they leave the office.
DrawMD – Illustrations Beyond the Exam Room
The app consists of a wide variety of anatomical illustrations that physicians can choose from, manipulate, and annotate to meet the needs of their particular patients. Physicians can then print, or even e-mail, these images to patients for later review.
In my own practice, I find patients oftentimes have difficulty understanding the purpose and function of a ureteral stents. Ureteral stents are placed to relieve an obstruction of the upper urinary tract. Using the DrawMD app, I can now illustrate for my patients not only where a ureteral stent is placed, but also some common side effects of stents – urinary frequency, urgency, hematuria, and discomfort.
In addition to being a great tool for urologists, the DrawMD app has a large selection of anatomic illustrations that can be used by a wide variety of other medical and surgical specialties.
The Art of Medicine
Medicine is changing. Patients are no longer satisfied with the status quo. Patients, like Jessie Gruman, want to more fully understand their medical conditions.
Understanding leads to empowerment.
Using tools such as DrawMD, we can literally use the art of medicine to empower our patients.