In the most recent edition of the American College of Rheumatology guidelines for the management of Osteoarthritis (OA), education is listed as the critical initial step in the overall approach to the treatment of OA. Education and reassurance for the patient, their family, and caregivers is recognized as an important component of OA therapy. It is essential to understand the benefits of taking an active role in the management of their disease. Some patients have a negative attitude toward their disease, are coping with depression, and fail to utilize therapies that could be beneficial to health. In some cases, uninformed patients may actually worsen their Osteoarthritic conditions like those patients who wrongly believe that it is best to be inactive in order to protect joints affected by Osteoarthritis. The misconception that physical inactivity may have some protective effect on arthritic joints may lead to muscle atrophy, disability, as well as to adverse cardiovascular effects. Because of the harmful effects that may result from actions taken by patients whom are uninformed, it is critical to understand the disease.
As with any other diseases, all people have their own ideas as to what the disease is, what causes it, and what the treatments for it are. These individual models for a disease that people hold vary significantly across different cultures, races, genders, and socioeconomic classes. An even more important variation is the one that exists between the physician and the patient. Several studies of other diseases have shown a positive correlation between more congruent patient and doctor models of illness and positive treatment outcomes.
As a result of the inherent differences between the educational backgrounds and experiences of the patient and the doctor, it is often the case that the patient's understanding of his or her disease, its consequences, and the risks and benefits of possible treatment options are different from those of the doctor. The doctor-patient relationship suffers when this situation exists and no measures are taken to bring the patient's understanding of these issues to a level that again restores the function of the doctor-patient relationship. Equivalence in understanding is not the goal; rather the objective should be for the patient to have a generalized concept of his or her disease and treatment that mirrors the surface of the doctor's understanding. The end result of a situation where the patient's understanding is not congruent with the doctor's understanding may be patient noncompliance with regard to prescribed treatments. Concerns for patient noncompliance and the less than optimal treatment outcomes that results when there are large inconsistencies between a physician's and a patient's understanding of OA are the reasons why it is essential for the doctor to have a good understanding of the patient's knowledge of the disease process. Thus the outcome of the patient's medical treatment and ultimately his or her disease state is dependent on the patient's level of awareness as well as the doctor's recognition of the patient's level of comprehension.
More information can be found at: www.IHaveOsteoarthritis.com