Patient Education…"Essential to Good Health Care"

INDIANAPOLIS, IN-Osteoarthritis is not only one of the many forms of joint disease, it is by far the most common. Osteoarthritis is associated with degeneration of the cartilage portion of the joint. The tendency toward developing osteoarthritis increases with age.

For patient's with joint disease, understanding of the condition and treatment plays a central role in maintaining maximal function. This fact was highlighted by a recent study by Dr. Steven A. Mazzuca and coworkers at Indiana University School of Medicine published in Arthritis and Rheumatism (1997;40:1466-74).

Dr. Mazzuca studied the effects of self-care education of 211 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients were divided into two groups. One group (education group) was given customized arthritis self-care instruction based on particular individual needs demonstrated during an assessment with a physician. Follow-up telephone calls at 1 and 4 weeks reinforced the patients' self-care regimens. The members of the second group (the control group) all initially viewed a twenty minute audio-visual standardized public education presentation about arthritis with followup phone calls at 1 and 4 weeks simply to encourage study completion.

The study found significantly less disability and pain symptoms in the group of patients that had received self-care education throughout a one year monitoring period.

The authors concluded that having the primary physician educate each patient about their particular condition and status together with emphasizing issues of self-care for the patients, results in a notable preservation of function and pain control. The authors also speculated that more detailed patient education would have an even greater and longer-lasting beneficial impact.

The long story short is that patient education helps.

In an accompanying editorial (entitled PATIENT EDUCATION: ESSENTIAL TO GOOD HEALTH CARE FOR PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC ARTHRITIS), Halsted R. Holman, M.D. and Kate R. Lorig Dr., PH of Stanford University point out that "a health care service that appropriately prepares patients for their roles, and accurately adapts the roles and activities of its other components to the problems posed by chronic disease, will not only better serve the needs of individual patients, but will also contribute to resolution of the health care crisis."

This concept is supported by the idiom that "in chronic disease, the patient is the principal caregiver." Chronic disease currently accounts for 70% of the health care expenditures in the United States (JAMA 1996;276:1473- 9).

The editors of MedicineNet echo the conclusions and sentiments of these authors. It remains our purpose to provide our viewers with meaningful information about diseases and issues of health which we feel are essential to good health care in general.

Last Editorial Review: 12/31/1997