Improving professional practice in the disclosure of a diagnosis of dementia: a modeling experiment to evaluate a theory-based intervention

Martin P Eccles, Jill Francis, Robbie Foy, Marie Johnston, Claire Bamford, Jeremy M Grimshaw, Julian Hughes, Jan Lecouturier, Nick Steen, Paula M Whitty

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Abstract

Among health professionals, there is wide variation in the practice of disclosing a diagnosis of dementia to patients.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of one theory-based and two pragmatic interventions on intention to perform three behaviors, namely (1) finding out what the patient already knows or suspects about their diagnosis; (2) using the actual words "dementia" or "Alzheimer's disease" when talking to the patient (i.e., the use of explicit terminology); (3) exploring what the diagnosis means to the patient.

Within an intervention-modeling process, members of old-age mental health teams in England were sent postal questionnaires measuring psychological variables. Respondents were randomized by team to one of four groups to receive: theory-based intervention; evidence-based communication; patient-based intervention; or no intervention (control). Interventions were delivered as pen-and-paper exercises at the start of a second postal questionnaire that remeasured the same psychological variables. The outcome measures were intention and scenario-based behavioral simulation.

Responses were received from 644 of 1,103 (58%) individuals from 179 of 205 (87%) mental health teams. There were no significant differences in terms of intention or simulated behavior between the trial groups. The theory-based intervention significantly increased scores for attitudes to (p = 0.03) and perceived behavioral control (p = 0.001) for the behavior of "finding out what the patient already knows or suspects about their diagnosis."

The intervention had a limited effect. This may be partly explained by clinical or methodological factors. The use of a systematic intervention modeling process allows clearer understanding of the next appropriate steps which should involve further evaluation of the interventions using an interactive delivery method in a less selected group of study participants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-387
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Volume16
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009

Keywords

  • attitude of health personnel
  • dementia
  • health care surveys
  • humans
  • models, theoretical
  • patient simulation
  • physician's practice patterns
  • professional-patient relations
  • questionnaires
  • truth disclosure

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