Patient Education

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It is a constant source of astonishment to doctors how little the average patient understands about their body and how it works. Very few people know, for example, where to locate their spleen, their pancreas, or their kidneys. Do you?

If people knew the basics about body structure and function, they would be more likely to guess with some accuracy what might be wrong when symptoms occur. This could well forestall weeks on the wrong waiting list: for example, a pain under the ribcage on the right side may be presumed by a patient to be indigestion involving the stomach when in fact it is more likely to involve the liver or gallbladder.

It would be enormously beneficial if children at school received some instruction on the basics.

In junior school some basic lessons explaining simple anatomy would help.

A few lessons with colourful illustrations could help them navigate numerous problems in later life. Instructive toys and games can familiarise children with some basic information in an amusing way. One doll I have seen has an abdomen which can be unzipped to show normal organs in the right place and in different bright colours. Nothing to make you squeamish!

Playing ‘doctors and nurses’ in pretend uniforms can make medical staff seem less fearful. In secondary school, perhaps alongside sex education, some explanation about common diagnoses, both for themselves and their families, such as diabetes, asthma, stroke, heart attack, back-ache, sports injuries could dispel some of the mystery concerning our health. Apart from enhancing knowledge and self-reliance this information could help short circuit many mistaken referrals and the common prescription of inappropriate medication.

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