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Patient anxiety about doctor appointments could be solved with better education

Medical Economics JournalMedical Economics November 2023
Volume 100
Issue 11

Almost half of patients report feeling anxious before an appointment

Patient anxiety can be solved with better pre-visit education: © -

Patient anxiety can be solved with better pre-visit education: © -

Patient anxiety over seeing a doctor is getting worse.

A survey from Patient-Point/OnePoll showed that nearly half (48%) of Americans say they feel anxious before a doctor’s appointment, up from 39% in 2022. The main reason for the anxiety is that 48% of patients say they do not have enough information to prepare for the visits this year, compared to 38% last year.

Anxiety about what will happen at the doctor appointment was a key reason why four in 10 Americans said they put off seeing a physician. Other reasons included potentially being unable to afford care (52%), anxiety about tests of procedures (40%), and fear of bad news or a serious diagnosis (39%), according to the survey.

The survey also looked at how different races and ethnicities viewed doctor appointments. Asian Americans surveyed were much more likely than White respondents to feel confused (36% vs. 20%), overwhelmed (37% vs. 19%) or intimidated (30% vs. 16%) before a doctor's appointment. An additional survey of 275 Hispanic/Latino Americans found Hispanic/Latino Americans were much more likely than white respondents to feel anxious (63% vs. 48%), stressed (47% vs. 22%) or overwhelmed (34% vs. 19%) before visiting the doctor.

In addition, Black (63%) and Asian Americans (67%) polled were more likely to say they did not have enough information to prepare for their appointment, compared to white respondents (44%). Hispanic/Latino Americans were also nearly twice as likely to be concerned about what they might find out at their doctor's appointment (50%), compared to white respondents (27%), according to the survey.

Post-appointment confusion is decreasing overall, with 33% saying they “always” or “often” leave doctor’s appointments confused, down from 48% last year. However, nearly half of respondents said they “always” or “often” remain afraid to ask their health care provider about their health condition or symptoms (46% in 2023, compared to 51% in 2022).

The survey found that the majority of Americans trust in their health care provider, with eight in 10 people polled (87%) saying they trust their health care provider. When asked what made a health care provider trustworthy, survey respondents cited explaining conditions or symptoms in simple terms (62%), listening to patients' concerns (57%) and providing personalized education and resources about conditions, symptoms and treatment options (55%) as top factors.

"Educating patients before, during and after their visit not only lets them make more informed decisions based on their individual health journey, but also increases the likelihood they will follow through with prescribed treatment," said PatientPoint Founder and CEO Mike Collette in a statement. "More than half of Americans polled said knowing how and why their treatment is important would make them feel empowered to adhere to their treatment plan."

When asked what would make them feel more empowered to talk with their health care provider about their health, survey respondents cited receiving education about their health during (55%) or before (43%) their visit as particularly helpful, as well as knowing that there is a treatment for their symptoms/condition (53%), according to the report.

More than half (57%) of survey respondents cited their health care provider as their top source of health information, followed by Google or another search engine (43%) and social media (31%).

"Sharing content with patients tailored to their individual journey in the care moments that matter helps create better awareness and better understanding, ultimately driving better conversations and better health," said Collette.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health