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Articles   |    
What Do Outpatients With Schizophrenia and Mood Disorders Want to Learn About Their Illness?
Claudia Hallett, B.Sc.; Sonali Gupta, M.B.B.S., M.R.C.Psych.; Stefan Priebe, F.R.C.Psych., Dr. med. habil.
Psychiatric Services 2013; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201200382
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Ms. Hallett and Dr. Priebe are affiliated with the Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom. Dr. Gupta is with the East London National Health Service Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom. Send correspondence to Dr. Priebe at the Newham Centre for Mental Health, London E13 8SP, United Kingdom (e-mail: s.priebe@qmul.ac.uk).

Copyright © 2013 by the American Psychiatric Association

Abstract

Objective  Psychiatric patients currently have access to a plethora of information about their illness. However, little systematic research has explored what psychiatric patients would like to learn about their illness. This study addressed the knowledge gap by asking outpatients with schizophrenia and mood disorders what they wished to learn about their illness and how they preferred to learn this information.

Methods  An exploratory survey of psychiatric outpatients was conducted between April 2011 and June 2012. A total of 202 outpatients with a diagnosis of either schizophrenia or related disorder (ICD-10 codes F20–F29) (N=106) or mood disorder (ICD-10 codes F30–F39) (N=96) were interviewed after routine meetings with their psychiatrist. Interviews were conducted with open- and closed-ended questions in outpatient clinics across East London, United Kingdom. Open-ended questions were analyzed qualitatively, and closed-ended questions were analyzed quantitatively.

Results  Over two-thirds of psychiatric outpatients (68%) reported that they would like to learn more about their illness. Overall, patients’ wishes for learning were heterogeneous. However, both diagnostic groups ranked “the cause of the illness” as their top information need. Most patients preferred to learn through one-to-one conversations with their psychiatrist (schizophrenia, 92%; mood disorder, 84%).

Conclusions  In regard to educating patients about their illness, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Health care professionals need to be sensitive to individual learning preferences, which vary and can include group-based approaches. The results have implications for the training of psychiatrists. In particular, psychiatrists need to be equipped to address patients’ questions about the cause of the illness.

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Table 1Characteristics of 202 patients surveyed about their information preferences, by diagnostic group
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a Significant difference (p<.05) between diagnostic groups

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Table 2Sources of previously obtained information identified by 202 patients, by diagnostic groupa
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a Patients could identify more than one topic. No significant relationships were found between information source and diagnosis.

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b A paid member of the patient’s care team, such as a social worker or care coordinator

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c Other multiple-choice options identified were books, church, friends, journals, letters, magazines, mental health charities, no one, own research, other professionals, radio, or ward visits.

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Table 3Topics identified by 138 patients as ones that they would like to learn more about, by diagnostic groupa
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a A total of 66 patients with schizophrenia and 72 with a mood disorder wanted to learn more about their illness. Patients could identify more than one topic. No significant relationships were found between topic and diagnosis.

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b Includes such topics as how to cope with the illness and how to cure it, information about what the patient could do to speed recovery, specific information about the diagnosis, information about how the illness changes over time, specific questions about personal experiences, and information about “Why me?”

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Table 4Sources of information preferred by 138 patients who reported wanting to learn more about their illness, by diagnostic groupa
Table Footer Note

a Patients could identify more than one source. No significant relationships were found between source and diagnosis.

Table Footer Note

b A paid member of the patient’s care team, such as a social worker or care coordinator

Table Footer Note

c Other multiple-choice options identified were films, researchers, books, coworkers, conferences and workshops, and other professionals.

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Table 5Preferred information delivery methods of 138 patients who reported wanting to learn more about their illness, by diagnostic groupa
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a Patients could identify more than one source.

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b Significant difference (p<.05) between diagnostic groups

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c Other multiple-choice options identified were anything, Internet, seminars, interactive workshops, books, and letters.

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