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A new report suggests the quality of medical advice in a doctor’s office is an important indicator of a person’s ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions, and could be related to the quality and quality of an individual’s social support network.
In a survey of 1,000 adults, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Northwestern University found that people who had high social support networks were twice as likely to have an excellent understanding of the diagnostic criteria for diseases, conditions and injuries.
The findings are reported in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers conducted a two-year study of 1.1 million participants who had a doctor or primary care provider who was affiliated with a large medical school, as well as people with a social support or peer network.
Participants were asked to rate their general health, medical knowledge, understanding of medical conditions and medical risks.
Those with high levels of social support, compared to those without it, had a lower level of understanding of diagnosis and treatment of medical issues, and a higher rate of being able to identify the symptoms of a medical condition.
The authors say the findings show that social support is a predictor of the accuracy of medical diagnoses and treatment.
“These findings provide a direct relationship between social support and accurate diagnosis and assessment,” said lead author Dr. Jodi Thompson, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University’s Kellogg School of Medicine.
“We found that individuals with higher levels of support in the social context had a greater degree of ability to identify and respond to medical issues and a greater ability to understand the diagnostic characteristics of those conditions.”
In addition, the researchers found that higher levels, and in some cases higher levels than those with no support, of peer networks also predicted better diagnosis of and treatment for medical conditions.
Dr Thompson said her findings have implications for how doctors and patients work together to care for people with disabilities.
“Social networks, including social support groups, have been shown to be particularly effective in treating chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and to increase adherence to medication adherence,” Dr Thompson said.
“While these relationships are clear and well-documented, we haven’t been able to find any evidence that supports this relationship between these types of social connections and quality care for patients with chronic diseases.”