UT research shows treatments work better when patients have options

June 18, 2012 | Research, UToday
By Aaron Horn

When a patient helps make the decision regarding treatment for pain, the therapy works better.

Research conducted by faculty members at The University of Toledo examining patient input in the pain treatment process will be published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, a popular interdisciplinary publication that focuses on furthering the knowledge of physical health and illness through techniques of behavioral science.

UT Department of Psychology faculty Dr. Jason Rose and Dr. Andrew Geers, along with graduate students Heather Rasinski and Stephanie Fowler, conducted an experiment with more than 30 participants that examined whether the effectiveness of pain treatments differed depending upon the availability of choice.

In the experiment, participants submerged their hands into a container full of crushed ice and water.

“We chose to use ice because it is what we call an acute laboratory stressor. It evokes an unpleasant feeling with prolonged exposure to the stimulus,” said Geers, associate professor of psychology.

At the beginning of the experiment, some participants were provided with expectations for two pain-relieving ointments, which were actually the same inert mixture. Some participants had a choice over which salve they preferred and felt most comfortable with; other participants simply were given an ointment.

Through their research, it was discovered that the ointment was more effective when participants were given an option and helped select the treatment.

“This study has implications for health care. For instance, choice-making may be an ecologically valid way to increase patient involvement and improve outcomes, and may have applications in other areas like rehab and sleep quality,” said Rose, assistant professor of psychology.

This research to be published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine is just one of many studies that are being done to discover the power of patient decision-making.

“The overarching goal is to examine how decision-making alters outcomes in medical situations,” Geers said. “Health-care practitioners will benefit from this study the most. During the last 50 years, there has been an increase in patient choice, and we are investigating the consequences of this emphasis.”

The study was published online as part of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine’s “Online First Articles” and will appear in a future edition of the journal. Read it online here.

“UT is committed to providing faculty with the resources to be productive in research,” Rose said. “Being published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine helps validate this research and UT as a whole.”

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