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Patient advice and support

18th June 2013

My younger daughter recently had her final sign-off visit to the Rheumatology consultant this week having suffered from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome in her left foot from January through to September last year. She had gone from waking up one morning with a mild level of pain, to having to use a walking-stick, to crutches and then a wheelchair. During this time we had visited numerous healthcare professionals before a physiotherapist finally suggested CRPS and after working through a multi-disciplinary program of treatment she gradually made a full recovery – happy days!

During her “sign-off” visit something that the consultant said struck a real chord with me when he said to my daughter, “you’ve recovered quickly because you’ve taken the attitude that there are things that you can do to help yourself get better, rather than relying on doctors and medicines to make you well on their own”. I thought that this was a great credo and it made me think about all the conditions where, alongside prescribed medicines, patients can take further steps (excuse the pun!) to aid their own recovery.

I know that healthcare professionals often provide additional advice but not always and regulatory guidelines rightly restrict the information that can be provided within pharmaceutical packaging and leaflets.

Talking with friends and family from outside healthcare I get the impression that the industry still has a long way to go to ensure that supporting advice is readily available to all patients. It still seems to be the case that very often the first place that people look is online. In fact I have a friend who went through a period of time when he felt extremely low for no particular reason and his first port of call was to type “how to be happy” into his search engine – needless to say the top ranking results were all editorial articles rather than information published by mental health specialists.

As the NHS strives to cut costs, it’s no wonder that the pharmaceutical industry is adjusting it’s approach to provide value-added services, ensuring that patients are fully informed, encouraged and empowered to take as much ownership as possible in their own outcomes. It’s clear that online content, supported by strong Search Engine Optimisation should be a wider-used resource by pharma to maintain a voice in supporting their patients in this way.

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