UConn HomeThe UConn Advance
Send a printer-friendly page to my printer 
Email a link to this page.

Consumers learn health care savvy at 'Patient School'

by Jane Shaskan - March 27, 2006

The Health Center is offering a “patient school” program to help health care consumers advocate for themselves, their children, and their aging parents.

The program is the first in the country.

“We’ve put together a course that addresses some of the most compelling and confusing issues that face health care consumers today,” says Dr. Robert Trestman, director the Connecticut Health Signature Program and program director of Patient School.

“As a public academic medical center, we are committed to bringing patient education to a new level.

“This is an educational program for anyone who has ever been a patient, will be a patient, or advocates for patients – and that’s pretty much everyone,” Trestman adds.

Dr. Scott Wetstone, an associate professor of community medicine and health care, says, “Patients in today’s health care environment can face daunting and stressful hurdles. There’s a wealth of information available from a variety of sources, some accurate, some not.

“We believe this program can significantly help patients become wise and savvy health care consumers,” he adds.

“Knowledge and information are the foundation for maximizing patient care and being your own best advocate, and direct instruction from professional experts is the best place to build that foundation.”

Class participant Sharon Madsen was eager to attend patient school on two counts, her own health care and that of her aging mother.

“I want to feel like I’m in control – that I’m helping to steer this doctor-patient partnership,” Madsen says.

“The more I know, the more I can be involved in my own health care and help advocate for my mother. Patient School is a great idea.”

In today’s managed care environment, involvement in one’s own health care is more important than ever, according to Charles Huntington III, an assistant professor of community medicine and health care, who taught during the first class on March 1.

“Gone are the days when your doctor told you what to do, and then you did it,” Huntington says.

“Gone are the days when you’d leisurely sit in your physician’s private office and chat about your health.

“Nationwide, a routine office visit currently takes about 15 minutes,” he says.

“Patients need to be prepared to make the most of that time.”

Part of that preparation includes making sure patients have complete and accurate medical information at their fingertips.

Judith Ford, left, an instructor in psychiatry, and Julian Ford, a professor of psychiatry, teach a patient awareness class at the Health Center, part of a new program to help patients become educated consumers.
Judith Ford, left, an instructor in psychiatry, and Julian Ford, a professor of psychiatry, teach a patient awareness class at the Health Center, part of a new program to help patients become educated consumers.
Photo by Peter Morenus

During the first class, Huntington handed out templates identifying the medical information and history patients should provide their physicians: current and past illnesses, chronic conditions, injuries, hospitalizations, prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, supplements, herbals, immunizations, social habits, family medical histories from siblings to grandparents, and a detailed description of the symptoms and characteristics of the illness that initiated the visit.

“Collecting this information can take some time,” Huntington told the class. “Think of it as homework.”

Patient School is supplying participants with other important tools as well:

  • instruction on searching the web for accurate and current medical information,
  • recognizing unproven or false information and evaluating sources,
  • researching health providers’ credentials,
  • understanding diagnostic results and screening tests,
  • managing stress in order to focus on communications and make important decisions,
  • and addressing legal and ethical issues.

During the first class, Trestman administered a simple test to gauge the current knowledge of class participants. The scores will be compared against another test at the end of the course.

“The class was very attentive and enthusiastic,” he says. “I think they’ll all be on the honor roll.”

Other presenters include: Barbara Blechner, an associate professor of community medicine and health care; Julian Ford, an associate professor of psychiatry; Judith Ford, an instructor of psychiatry; Evelyn Morgen, director of the Lyman Maynard Stowe Library, and library staff; and Dr. Grael O’Brien, an assistant professor of pediatrics. The manager of Patient School is Wendy Soneson of communications.

Patient School is a joint project of the Office of Communications and the Connecticut Health Signature Program. The two-hour classes meet Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. through March.

ADVANCE HOME         UCONN HOME The UConn Advance
© University of Connecticut
Disclaimers, Privacy, & Copyright
EMail the Editor        Text only