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Pain Research and Management
Volume 20, Issue 3, Pages 145-151
Original Article

Patients’ Recall of Diagnostic and Treatment Information Improves with Use of the Pain Explanation and Treatment Diagram in an Outpatient Chronic Pain Clinic

Hillel M Finestone,1 Matthew M Yanni,2 and Catherine J Dalzell3

1Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital, University of Ottawa, Canada
2University of Ottawa, Canada
3Bruyère Research Institute, Bruyère Continuing Care, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2015 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Educating patients about their condition and treatment plan is an essential component of successful treatment. Patients need to understand their condition, recall treatment suggestions and comply with the treatment protocol. Unfortunately, the method of patient education most commonly used by physicians is verbal teaching and discussion, which leads to poor patient recall. The authors of this article developed the Pain Explanation and Treatment Diagram, a worksheet that the clinician completes with the patient during their first consultation to function as a record of their diagnosis, pain risk factors and an action plan for when pain occurs. In this study, patient recall, among other variables, was assessed as a function of time since first appointment.

BACKGROUND: To maximize the benefit of therapies, patients must understand their condition, recall treatment suggestions and comply with treatments. The Pain Explanation and Treatment Diagram (PETD) is a one-page worksheet that identifies risk factors (health-related habits, sleep, exercise, ergonomics and psychosocial factors) involved in chronic pain. Clinician and patient complete the PETD together, and the clinician notes recommended treatments and lifestyle changes.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the effect of use of the PETD on patient recall of diagnostic and treatment information on the sheet.

METHODS: The present study was a cross-sectional analysis. Patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain seen by one physiatrist at an outpatient pain clinic in a university-affiliated hospital between 2009 and 2012 (all of whom received the PETD) were eligible. A structured telephone interview lasting approximately 1 h was used to determine recall of PETD diagnostic and treatment information.

RESULTS: Of the 84 eligible patients, 46 were contacted and 29 completed the telephone interview. Participants recalled an average of 12.2% (95% CI 7.8% to 17.4%) of items without prompting and 48.5% (95% CI 42.0% to 53.5%) when prompted. Participants who referred to the PETD at home (n=13) recalled significantly more items than those who did not (n=15) (17.6% [95% CI 11.1% to 23.9%] versus 5.2% [95% CI 3.0% to 14.5%], P=0.004); when prompted, the rates increased to 54.3% (95% CI 48.3% to 61.2%) and 41.2% (95% CI 34.7% to 50.7%), respectively (P=0.032).

CONCLUSIONS: The PETD is a promising, feasible and inexpensive tool that can improve patients’ recall of diagnostic- and treatment-related information.