During my first clinical rotation as a student (which was a short, four-week orientation), my clinical instructor often gave me the task of finding research articles or handouts to give our patients. I distinctly remember working with one patient who had Parkinson's disease. After one of our sessions, we went over an article on Parkinson's disease, auditory cues and basic postural exercises. I enjoyed finding those articles to share with patients during my clinical, because it was a simple task I could complete independently and seemed to tie everything together for me -- assessing deficits, treatment strategies and educating patients.
Since then, I haven't integrated that practice into my regular routine. I create exercise handouts regularly, but I haven't shown my patients the latest research about their pathology like I did as a student. I spend a lot of time with my patients teaching a slew of topics -- their anatomy, how anatomy changes with movement, what my role will be as their physical therapist to facilitate healing, treatment options (including alternatives I can't provide) and a rough timeline of care. But, I need to do more.
The APTA has a page of patient handouts on their website, but all of them require membership to access. They have a secondary website, "Move Forward," that's centered on patient-specific education materials, including information for patients about physical therapy, locating a physical therapist, and diagnosis information.
t's a wonderful website. There's a catalog of diagnoses, ranging from orthopedic to neurologic to pediatric pathologies. Clicking on those diagnoses will bring the user to a page of information about the diagnosis, signs and symptoms, how a physical therapist can help, real-life case examples and a collection of research articles. They are detailed, yet concise collections of information and extremely user-friendly. While providing handouts, or directing patients to websites, will certainly not replace the skill and expertise of a physical therapist, it's a great tool to use as part of treatment.
WebMD and similar websites with medical information for patients estimate a monthly volume of more than 25 million users. Self-diagnosing is becoming more and more prevalent. We're at a critical tipping point of how healthcare will be accessed by future generations and learning information is a huge component. One of my colleagues at the hospital used to often repeat the quote, "Knowledge is power." Empowering our patients with knowledge about their diagnoses is one of our best skills as physical therapists.
How will you provide education to your patients? Do you keep a set of patient handouts on file? Have you shared the latest research with your patients and explained how it will impact their care? Will you visit or encourage your patients to use the APTA's Move Forward website?
* The ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine website also offers a vast array of patient handouts that can be easily downloaded here.