Improving doctor patient communication Health psychologists attempt to aid the process of communication between doctors and patients during medical consultations. There are many problems in this process, particularly the use of jargon by doctors (using long, complex, usually medicine-specific words often not understood by the patient). Researchers such as Boyle and McKinlay have investigated this process and discovered not only that patient understanding is low (40% of women on a maternity ward understood 13 medical terms that they were given), but that even doctors do not expect their patients to understand their jargon.
One main area of research on this topic involves ‘doctor centered’ or ‘patient centered’ consultations. Doctor centered consultations are generally directive, with the patient answering questions and taking little part in decision-making. Although this style is preferred by elderly people and others, many people dislike the sense of hierarchy or ignorance that it inspires. They prefer the patient centered consultations, which focus on the patient’s needs, involve the doctor listening to the patient completely before making a decision, and involving the patient in the process of choosing treatment and finding a diagnosis.
Adherence to medical advice
Getting people to obey medical advice and adhere to their treatment regimens is a difficult task for health psychologists. Mostly, people forget to take their pills or find their side effects too difficult to cope with, but failing to take prescribed medication costs very huge amounts of money per year, as well as wasting millions of usable, viable medicines that could otherwise be used to help other people.
Health Psychology focuses upon how biological, psychological, and social factors affect health and illness. Many health psychologists perform on the best ways to promote healthy living and prevent disease and/or how people react psychologically when they are diagnosed with an illness. Health psychologists are also interested in patients’ personality or attitude to see if it has a positive or negative effect on their health.
Health Psychology has become so involved in physical health and illness that medical centers have become important employers of psychology majors today. Health psychologists study patients’ coping strategies, adjustment to their illness, and how they view their quality of life. The main focus today is why people do certain things knowing that it can harm them in the end (e.g., why teenagers or adults smoke when they know it causes cancer or even death).