February 29, 2008 / 7:14 PM / 11 years ago

"Involved" patients not always healthier

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People who take a proactive role in their healthcare may be better-informed, but that may not necessarily translate into better health, results of a study hint.

In the study of 189 adults with high blood pressure, researchers found that those who wanted a greater say in their healthcare tended to have higher blood pressure and cholesterol than patients who let their doctors have most of the control.

This was despite the fact that the more-proactive patients were more likely to get health information from various sources, like the Internet and medical brochures.

The findings, reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, suggest that merely being involved in healthcare decisions does not necessarily make patients healthier.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” lead researcher Dr. Austin Baldwin, of the Iowa City VA Medical Center, said in a statement.

It’s possible, according to Baldwin and his colleagues, that the more-involved patients were more likely to be at odds with their doctors. And studies have found that patients generally tend to do better when they agree with their doctors on how to manage their health problems.

The benefits of being proactive may also depend on the medical condition in question, the researchers point out.

In this study, involved patients had higher blood pressure and cholesterol overall, but the same was not true when it came to blood sugar control. Elevated blood pressure and cholesterol are symptom-free problems, Baldwin’s team notes, and this may make the conditions harder for people to manage.

In contrast, blood sugar highs and lows often do cause symptoms, and people may be able to figure out how to adapt their daily lives to get better control of their blood sugar.

It’s also possible, Baldwin and his colleagues note, that some patients who wanted more involvement felt that way because their care was inadequate.

More research, they conclude, is needed to understand the reasons for the findings.

SOURCE: Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2008.

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