(Health) Knowledge Is Power
But to offer this gift to patients, we must provide both the information and the interpretation
Michael Schubert | | Opinion
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial. The carrot dangling in front of me was a better understanding of my SARS-CoV-2 antibody profile and, therefore, my protection from COVID-19. I was intrigued; after all, knowledge is power – especially in a world still far from the end of a pandemic (and when the publicly available information on immunity is unreliable at best). Do antibodies decline over three months, six months, or one year? Do the remaining antibodies have neutralizing ability? What about cellular immunity? Should we be worried?
The process was simple – a blood sample couriered to the lab, a brief wait, and then a report that showed my IgG, IgM, and IgA responses to various components of the virus. One thing jumped out at me as soon as I read the report: a section that broke my results down into three simple yes-or-no questions that could be understood by any reader. Was there evidence that I had been either infected or vaccinated? Was there evidence of an immune response? And was there evidence that this immune response was protective? I didn’t need to be an expert to interpret the results, nor did I need expert guidance (although this, too, was provided). I had the power to read and understand my own health information.
Immediately, the knowledge made a difference in my life. In a sense, I learned two things by participating in the study: my immune status with respect to COVID-19 and how important it is for patients to receive their test results quickly – and with appropriate guidance. Both aspects are key; although it’s stressful to wait long days or weeks for health information, it’s no less so to receive information without interpretation – and assistance from “Dr. Google” often causes more harm than good.
Many institutions are now including notes to patients in their pathology reports in an attempt to deter them from calling on Dr. Google (or Facebook, or TikTok, or Great-Aunt Martha…). Have you tried including patient education in your reports? If so, let us know – and tell us what difference it has made in your patient community. I know it made a significant difference to me!