Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., discovered that individuals who were admitted to the emergency room for chest pain were less likely to opt for unnecessary procedures after doctors shared educational visual aids with them. The results suggested that patient education brochures and other demonstrative tools may be useful for reducing costs associated with medically unnecessary tests and treatments.
In order to investigate how such tools may affect patients' decision making, the team of scientists developed a visual patient-education tool for individuals admitted to the emergency room for chest pain. This aid provided information about various care options and the 45-day risk of a heart attack. Within a study cohort of 204 individuals from one emergency department, the researchers showed the visual aid to one-half of subjects.
Results showed that patients who saw the decision-making tool opted to undergo stress testing 58 percent of the time. By comparison, those who never saw the aid chose testing 77 percent of the time.
Furthermore, subjects who saw this information became more knowledgeable about their heart attack risk compared to the other patients. Patients in the former group were also four times more involved with their medical decision making.
Those who saw the aid described it as clear and helpful. About 75 percent of them said they would recommend it to other individuals.
There were no adverse events in the 30 days following discharge for any study participants.
These findings may have implications for the estimated 8 million yearly patient visits to hospitals that are attributed to chest pain. Reducing the incidence of false positive stress tests and radiation exposure may reduce medical costs associated with chest pain, which currently total $8 billion a year.
"Informing patients of their risk and engaging them in the decision-making process may enable physicians and patients to work together to choose an approach to evaluation that is more in line with what patients want, without negatively affecting the results of their health care," said lead researcher Erik Hess, M.D., M.Sc.
These results need to be verified in a study of several other hospital emergency departments, the authors noted.