Researchers from Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) believe that helping patients better manage uncertainty during and after an acute care episode can reduce the use of the emergency department by patients suffering from non-emergent conditions. The team developed an “Uncertainty Scale” (or U-Scale) to quantify patient uncertainty and track symptoms during an acute care episode, which is detailed in a recent study.
The study finds that uncertainties about the health care setting and treatments are demonstrably different from state anxiety or neurotic disposition. Their findings suggest that uncertainty, as measured by the U-Scale, is measuring something unique about patient’s health care experiences. There are some limitations to this study, so future work is needed to conduct data collection in a sample across diverse acute care settings.
The study, Development and preliminary validation of a scale to measure patient uncertainty: The “Uncertainty Scale,” was published in the Journal of Health Psychology earlier this year.
Patients seek unscheduled care in the emergency department for a variety of reasons, including limited access to primary care, financial concerns and transportation limitations. However, interventions aimed at addressing these factors had minimal impact on decreasing utilization. (Sue Bergmann)