There are changes that services can make to their systems and processes to help people to get more out of their consultation. Some of the changes are about what happens before the consultation, to help people prepare. Some are about what happens during the consultation so the health professional can help the patient to get the most out of it. There are also changes services can make that help people after their consultation.
Some things that services can do to help people prepare for their consultation include:
- Providing information and tools that help people to think through what they want to get out of their appointment. These can be mailed out with appointment letters, and made available in the waiting room, to help people prepare for their appointment. See some example leaflets and sheets that other services have developed. See example agenda setting materials.
Providing people with their test results in advance of the consultation, so that they can think about any questions or concerns they might have.
For example, the team in Cambridge working on the Health Foundation’s Co-creating Health programme have redesigned their systems to send patients their blood test results (with interpretation) prior to their annual review visit with their health professional. Whilst most patients said that they found this helpful, a small minority wanted clearer explanations with more layman’s terms. As a result, the team have revised the form by simplifying the language and ensuring that for each test at least two historical readings are shown so that patients can see trends.
Some tools that can help people during the consultation include:
- A goal setting tool, to help people set their own health goals and think through how they might achieve them. See example goal setting materials.
- A ‘pain gauge’ which helps people with chronic pain to articulate the level of pain they are experiencing.
- A ‘confidence ruler’ – a ruler that goes from 0 (no confidence) to 10 (extremely confident) to help patients articulate how confident they feel about achieving the goal(s) they have set themselves.
Tools and materials that can help people after their appointment and in their everyday life include:
- A written summary of what has been discussed and relevant support materials that the person can take away.
- Generic information, not specific to the individual, developed by the service or others such as materials about their condition or general materials about self-management. This might include computer links to useful resources such as self-help websites or relevant community groups which the clinician can signpost the patient to.
- Links to or provision of materials that can help people to manage their condition. For example, the patient.co.uk website has a migraine diary that can also be downloaded as an app. It enables people to record when their migraines occur, the level of severity, any medication taken and its effect, and possible triggers. The diary is designed to help people identify if there is any pattern and potentially avoid one or more things that may trigger their migraine attacks. There are lots of other examples available online.