Previous studies have shown that, in a variety of health care settings, patients often do not understand what health care professionals tell them about their diagnoses and care plans; this is particularly true among male patients. Emergency department (ED) settings present unique challenges to communication with patients due to the rapid pace of activity, substantial changes in personnel over the course of the day and the week, and the need for fast decision-making processes. The aim of our study was to investigate the extent to which patients in an Israeli ED comprehended their plan of care and whether there were gender differences in this regard.
We conducted a questionnaire-based prospective study, in which patients admitted to the ED at Rabin Medical Center were evaluated during the years 2014–2016. The primary outcome was patients’ comprehension of their plan of care, stratified by gender of patients. Plan of care included information related to diagnosis, treatment and discharge instructions. The secondary outcome was patients’ satisfaction with the instruction process.
One hundred seventy seven ED patients met study criteria and were asked to participate in the study; 85% of them agreed to do so. Overall, 150 ED patients aged 18–80 were recruited [75 men (50%) and 75 women (50%)]. 80% of the respondents reported a satisfactory understanding of their plan of care. Overall, no gender-related differences were found. Differences between men and women concerning satisfaction with the instructions provided by nurses were found among non-Hebrew speakers, but not among Hebrew speakers.
Contrary to most earlier studies, patients at our ED demonstrated a high degree of self-reported adequate comprehension concerning their plan of care, and overall no gender-related differences were found. These finding may be due in part to improved training of the medical staff to better communicate with the patients and to answer their questions. In addition, patients may feel more comfortable than in the past about asking the medical staff questions regarding their plan of care and diagnosis. The main implication of this study is that physician education programs should continue to emphasize patient-physician communications skills and improving methods for providing patients with information.