A patient's education level is not a fail-safe predictor of how well they will manage symptoms related to complicated chronic diseases, such as heart failure, according to a Purdue University study.
"Our research indicates that some of the better-educated heart failure patients in our sample did not manage their symptoms as well as those who were less educated," said Karen S. Yehle, an assistant professor of nursing who specializes in cardiovascular conditions. "We're not sure why this is. It could be that heart failure patients with lower health literacy experience symptoms more often and, therefore, know how to manage them better. No matter the reason, it's a reminder to doctors, nurses and pharmacists to communicate clearly and thoroughly to all patients, regardless of how much information or guidance they might believe a particular patient needs."
The researchers evaluated the adherence of 49 heart failure patients' daily self-care, which includes eating a low-sodium diet and taking medications, as well as the patients' self-management, which was required when they developed a symptom such as weight gain, leg swelling or shortness of breath.
"This is a small sample size, but what was especially telling is that many of the people in this sample had advanced degrees, so we feel it's an important message to remind practitioners to not make assumptions based on education," said Aleda M.H. Chen, a recent Purdue pharmacy and gerontology graduate who is now an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Ohio's Cedarville University, who led the study. "We also are working to expand the study to a larger sample size and follow heart failure patients' care and behaviors for the long-term."
The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. The research was supported by the Regenstrief Center for Healthcare Engineering at Purdue, and Chen received a fellowship to support her research from the National Institute on Aging and Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course.