Clinicians need to help patients to deal with their 'workload'

1 AUGUST 2011

Clinicians need to help patients, particularly those with chronic illnesses, deal with the increasing workload of looking after themselves, according to Professor Victor Montori of the Mayo Clinic in the USA, writing in the August edition of Australian Prescriber.

“Current treatment guidelines for doctors tell them to treat their patients to reach certain targets, such as a healthy blood sugar or cholesterol,” says Professor Montori.

This approach is based on an assumption that achieving these targets will lead to better outcomes for the patient. For some patients, these targets can only be achieved through intense treatment that may overwhelm them.

“If a treatment involves more medicines, this can mean the patient needs to do more intensive self-monitoring and self-management. They have to make time for more treatments, tests, and visits to health professionals,” says Professor Montori.

“For example, a patient with diabetes may be expected to manage their diet, activity, take their medicines, and check their blood sugars – which becomes very time-consuming. Some patients may be spending more than two hours a day managing their condition," he writes.

Benefits from lifestyle measures or medicines need to be balanced against the burden of all this treatment, says Professor Montori, and clinicians should involve patients in the prioritising of goals when it comes to their treatment.

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Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals, particularly doctors in general practice. It is published by NPS, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. Australian Prescriber is published every two months, in hard copy that is distributed to health professionals free of charge, and online in full text at