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15.6: Psychology And Medicine

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    There are many psychological factors that influence medical treatment outcomes. For example, older individuals (Meara et al., 2004), women (Briscoe, 1987), and those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds (Adamson et al., 2008). are all more likely to seek medical care. On the other hand, some individuals who need care might avoid it due to financial obstacles or preconceived notions about medical practitioners or the illness. Thanks to the growing amount of medical information online, many people now use the Internet for health information, and 38% report that this influences their decision to see a doctor (Fox & Jones, 2009). Unfortunately, this is not always a good thing because individuals tend to do a poor job assessing the credibility of health information. For example, college-student participants reading online articles about HIV and syphilis rated a physician’s article and a college student’s article as equally credible if the participants said they were familiar with the health topic (Eastin, 2001). Credibility of health information often means how accurate or trustworthy the information is, and it can be influenced by irrelevant factors, such as the website’s design, logos, or the organization’s contact information (Freeman & Spyridakis, 2004). Similarly, many people post health questions on unmoderated online forums where anyone can respond, which allows for the possibility of inaccurate information being provided for serious medical conditions by unqualified individuals.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): While the Internet has increased the amount of medical information available to the public and created greater access, there are real concerns about how people are making decisions about their health based on that information. [“WebMD Publishes Flu Risk Map with MapBox” by Mapbox/Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0.]

    After individuals decide to seek care, there is also variability in the information they give their medical provider. Poor communication (e.g., due to embarrassment or feeling rushed) can influence the accuracy of the diagnosis and the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment. Similarly, there is variation following a visit to the doctor. While most individuals are tasked with a health recommendation (e.g., buying and using a medication appropriately, losing weight, going to another expert), not everyone adheres to medical recommendations (Dunbar-Jacob & Mortimer-Stephens, 2010). For example, many individuals take medications inappropriately (e.g., stopping early, not filling prescriptions) or fail to change their behaviors (e.g., quitting smoking). Unfortunately, get- ting patients to follow medical orders is not as easy as one would think. For example, in one study, over one third of diabetic patients failed to get proper medical care that would prevent or slow down diabetes-related blindness (Schoenfeld et al., 2001)! Fortunately, as mobile technology improves, physicians now have the ability to monitor adherence and work to improve it (e.g., with pill bottles that monitor if they are opened at the right time). Even text messages are useful for improving treatment adherence and outcomes in depression, smoking cessation, and weight loss (Cole-Lewis & Kershaw, 2010).

    This page titled 15.6: Psychology And Medicine is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kate Votaw.

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