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Why Are Mentally Ill People Not Given a Diagnosis


Many people, even those far from psychiatry, know that mentally ill patients, as a rule, are not told their diagnosis. But as many medical records are kept online in recent years, more and more people are finding access to them. From there, patients and their relatives can highlight information about what notes the doctor took after the visit.

That's why scientists at the Oregon Veterans Assistance Center decided to conduct a study on educating mentally ill patients about their illnesses. They wanted to know what effect an awareness of their diagnosis had on such patients. According to the experts, they doubt that such information can be useful for patients.

We found that reading one's own medical records can intensify symptoms and also complicate the relationship with the attending physician, as this undermines the credibility of the doctor, the authors say in the report.

The study, published in the journal Psychiatric Services, interviewed 28 patients. Among them were both men and women of different ages. Their diagnoses ranged from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder, from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia.

Patients were treated by a psychiatrist, visited psychologists, went to other mental health professionals.

Scientists have identified the positive and negative effects of informing patients about the diagnosis.

Among the positive factors are the following

  • Patients liked to see the correspondence in the tape with what the doctors told them personally. This helped build a trusting relationship with doctors. They liked it when doctors openly discussed their diagnoses with them before taking notes in their medical records.
  • Patients felt self-respect and spoke of an increased sense of trust in doctors if they saw that they listen to their opinion, try to carefully study their personal histories, and record their individual characteristics. One patient, for example, commented that he liked the personal approach and the fact that he was not put on a par with other PTSD patients.

There were also negative consequences

  • Patients did not like the discrepancy between what they were told at the reception or sessions and what was recorded in the medical history. If there were inconsistencies in the information, details were written incorrectly, dates were mixed up, repetitions were used in the description of the disease, they were annoyed. They were worried that this confusion would prevent them from getting proper care from other doctors.
  • Many patients said they were upset when they saw diagnoses that were not even discussed with them. Such circumstances seriously undermined their confidence in the attending physician.
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It is worth considering that initiatives to record medical histories on the Internet will only develop, many clinics are going through the process of automating patient records. Study authors Raisa Kromer and Steven Dobcha offer several recommendations for staff in psychiatric hospitals.

  • Being proactive, being proactive in communicating with patients about what is contained in their medical history, can improve relationships with them, leading to a more sustainable therapeutic effect, the researchers say. – Careful record keeping, honest documentation of data, notes on the individual characteristics of patients also have a positive effect on the treatment process.

The authors of the study also note that it is important for clinic staff to take specialized courses that will help them prevent data leakage into the public domain. Such incidents are not only dangerous for some types of patients but can also lead to other undesirable consequences when someone from their environment learns about patients that they carefully hide from colleagues, friends or relatives.

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