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Patients’ problems often misunderstood by caring staff
31 May 2010
Problems patients experience due to dental or skin conditions are often differently perceived by care providers. This is shown in a dissertation by Francesca Sampogna, a researcher in epidemiology at Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata in Rome.
“To limit this problem, specific courses in communication should be included in the training of health-care personnel,” she says. She defended her dissertation Quality Of Life and Severity Assessment by Provider and Patient in Oral and Skin Conditions at the Faculty of Odontology, Malmö University.
For care providers to understand their patients’ problems while at the same time informing the patients about their condition, good communication is needed. In her dissertation Francesca Sampogna investigated how health-care providers perceive patients’ psychosocial situation due to skin or dental conditions. She found, among other things, that dermatologists often underestimate the occurrence of anxiety and depression among their patients.
“I believe this can be the result of faulty communication with the patient, but also of the fact that the doctors only look at the clinical situation. At the same time I’m aware that it isn’t easy to evaluate a patient’s mental status in just a few minutes, but even in a limited time a doctor should be able to create a dialog with his patient to get an idea of how the condition is affecting the patient’s psychosocial life.”
Two of the studies in the dissertation deal with patients with dental conditions. The results show that dentists have a tendency to underestimate their patients’ quality of life. This means that in general patients’ dental status does not have such a negative impact on their quality of life as dentists believe.
“It’s an interesting finding, and I believe part of the explanation may be found in the differences in how patients and dentists or dental hygienists perceive the situation. To patients, the dental condition, even though it may be serious, is only one of multiple components in their lives, whereas the providers’ knowledge of the condition can lead them to overestimate how patients are affected by it.”
A fourth study investigated how dentists and patients perceive the severity of the condition in cases of oral mucosal membrane problems in the oral cavity. The findings indicate major differences between the groups, with patients perceiving their problems as being greater than dentists did.
“When it comes to dental and skin problems, it seems as if the staff often have a personal perception of their patients’ psychosocial situation that does not agree with the patients’ views.”
In her dissertation Francesca Sampogna has demonstrated the importance of good communication between patients and staff in order to understand what special needs the patient has.
“The differences I found in my studies are a sign of communication problems. Therefore, specific courses in communication should be included in the training of care providers and can be a part of continuing education,” she says.