Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Health Policy Implications for Patient Education in Physical Therapy

Academic journal article Journal, Physical Therapy Education

Health Policy Implications for Patient Education in Physical Therapy

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT This paper explores the concept of health policy in light of the complexities of today's physical therapy practice, identifies many sources of health policy, and concludes with a discussion of our personnel responsibility for patient education. The paper explores three sources of health policy; personal standards of care, which we use in treating each patient or client; professional standards of care, which both influence and are influenced by individual standards; and external standards. which are a reflection of societal belief, personal standards, and professional norms. The paper continues with a discussion on the role of patient education as viewed by expert clinicians. The paper concludes with a reminder that, as long as research supports the efficacy of patent education, we must work with our professional organizations to effect the changes necessary in health policy to ensure that patient education is and continues to be a valued physical therapy intervention.

INTRODUCTION

What is health policy? Sometimes health policy feels like some very abstract concepts, and we might ask: How can these abstract, distant ideas affect how we make specific decisions about our individual patients? How can health policy tell us when to choose education as an intervention for our patients and clients? This paper explores the concept of health policy in light of the complexities of today's physical therapy practice, identifies many sources of health policy, and concludes with a discussion of our personnel responsibility for patient education. The working definition of patient education used in this paper is adapted from Burkhardt.1 Patient education is planned, organized learning experiences designed to facilitate voluntary adoption of behaviors, skills, or beliefs conducive to health. These educational activities can be part of either clinical patient care or community education.

These activities can be provided directly to patients and clients or to their families and relevant caregivers. Extending patient/client education to caregivers is clearly necessary in the case of infants and children and people with cognitive impairments. People with chronic problems and other patients may also benefit from involving caregivers in their educational programs.

Most of us made the decision to enter physical therapy because we wanted to provide care for individual patients. We were inspired in our career choice because we take pleasure in the one-on-one interactions we have with patients as we help them to recovery. Yet, each of us has responsibilities in our patient care to more than the individual patient. Each health care practitioner also has obligations to groups of patients. We build a database of similarities and differences seen in individual patients to help us gain clinical wisdom in treating patients who can be classified together into recognizable groups. Because we do not have infinite resources to provide ideal services to every patient, we need to find ways to share resources across groups of patents based on well-founded clinical priorities. We also need to ensure that the health care system within which our patients receive care is optimally designed. We must use the information obtained from treating individual patients and groups of patients to design appropriate changes to the system so that future patients will benefit (Figure 1).

Most of us spend most of our time working with people we call "patients," that is, people who have undergone some sort of injury or trauma. But we also work with people who may be at risk for disease or injury; often these people are referred to as "clients." Epidemiologists have defined terms to describe intervention at different times in the cycle of disease. "Primary prevention" describes interventions designed to prevent the occurrence of disease or injury. "Secondary prevention" describes interventions designed to prevent or reduce sequellae from disease or injury once it has occurred. …

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