LEEDS (UK)—Efforts to improve communication between patients, family doctors, and specialists can have a crucial impact on patients—in some instances working as effectively as drugs.
Bobbie Foy, professor of primary care at the University of Leeds, studied two sets of patients: one group suffering from depression and a second being treated for diabetes. Details are reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In both these long-term conditions, patients typically see both family doctors and specialists, with their care under one often overlapping their treatment from the other.
“What we wanted to see was whether having arrangements in place to improve communication and teamwork between these health professionals would make any difference to their outcomes,” Foy says.
“In short, would those suffering depression recover; would blood sugar levels be better controlled in people with diabetes?
“The results were impressive. In cases where family doctors and specialists were collaborating, blood sugar was much better controlled in people with diabetes—which is a significant step in avoiding the complications associated with the condition.
“In the case of patients with depression, the improvement in outcomes was about the same as you would get from treating their depression with drugs.”
Foy says the models for collaboration vary from place to place, and can take many forms.
E-mail, face-to-face conversations between health professionals, networks establishing links between medical practices, or a joint responsibility for drawing up treatment regimes and monitoring their effectiveness all show that where the collaboration is most systematic and effective, patients really benefit.
“In a way this is all common sense,” says Foy, “but now we really have the evidence to back it up.”
University of Leeds news: www.leeds.ac.uk/news