fibronostics physician tips liver disease

Physician Tip - Connecting With Patients About Liver Disease

In a study looking at the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of patients with chronic liver disease, researchers found that lack of knowledge was a key factor in how patients looked at prevention, risks and treatment.

While 30 to 40 percent of Americans are affected by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and the incidence of progression to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH is estimated to be 3 to 12 percent, awareness and knowledge of liver disease remains low. That lack of awareness offers an opportunity to connect with patients, and International NASH day can be jumping off point for that conversation.

The 2014 study published in the American Journal of Health Behavior involved 13 focus groups with 254 discrete comments, with an emergent theme of negativity and stigma around lifestyle, behaviors and lack of knowledge about chronic liver disease.

“Our findings suggest that much work remains to be done. A recurring theme among the participants was lack of knowledge about CLD among patients, families, and the medical community,” the authors wrote. “This lack of understanding about CLD included incomplete and incorrect information about underlying causes, treatments, symptoms, and medical management. Many participants also reported feeling stigmatized.”

In other words, part of the growing problem of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) may stem from the associated escalating rates of obesity and diabetes. Consequently, connecting with patients about NAFLD can be problematic. Patients don’t have to be told their weight is posing significant health risks, that message is loud and clear and so inescapable that in many cases just starting the conversation with how their weight may be increasing their risk of NAFLD as well as heart disease, diabetes and so on,  is likely to close down any receptiveness the patient might have about changing their lifestyle.

Instead, connecting with patients about the emotional and personal affects that their weight is having on their relationships and their self-esteem is much more likely to move them toward activation, according to a Fairview Health Services study. (See related post) That study found that physicians who score highest on patient activation measures focus on developing a caring concern relationship with patients over time.

Engaging with patients about NAFLD needs to be founded on an understanding and acknowledgement of the emotional as well as physical toll associated with obesity. Building the caring concern relationship depends on increasing patient understanding of their condition and its attendant risks. Adopting a “coaching” mindset and carefully implementing a patient engagement strategy involving ongoing communication and education that provides patient support, motivation and inspiration is likely to be more successful in moving patients to activation.

Acting as a coach rather than healthcare provider will help form a partnership to co-create goals and strategies for positive change. Helping patients identify the first small steps they can take, rather than prescribing them, will help them take ownership for their own health.

Early diagnosis is key to reversing the trend in NASH, which is now possible with newer non-invasive diagnostic tests that can reduce the need for invasive biopsy at lower cost and lower risk. In addition, such tests may produce result reports designed for quick interpretation that are also easy to share as an educational tool to help patients understand their liver disease risk and talk about NASH.

Connecting with patients over their liver disease risk could be the first step in getting patients to identify an achievable goal and take action. Coupled with follow-up communication from you may be just the ticket to move them from contemplation to activation.

Fibronostics is a healthcare technology company providing algorithm-based solutions in a variety of diagnostic tests to support clinician decision-making. LiverFAStTM is the premier non-invasive liver disease screen for early detection of steatosis, NASH and fibrosis. It is simple, less expensive and offers greater confidence in determining a patient’s level of liver injury and stage of liver disease. Its easy-to-read graphical report makes it ideal for starting the lifestyle conversation with patients.

HealthFACTR is an algorithm-based, broad spectrum health assessment tool targeting & visualizing several of the most critical risks to a person’s health and longevity. It is a scientifically based test addressing key focus areas adversely affecting human health. It has robust clinical support using state-of-the-art gold standard testing methods and backed up by hundreds of clinical support papers. Heart disease, Diabetes, Stroke, Liver disease, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Cholesterol, Triglyceride, Blood Pressure, HDL, LDL, Diet Assessment, Fitness Assessment, Fitness Goals, Body Fat Analysis - are measured, individual risk assessed, and actions recommended to reduce disease progression. HealthFACTR provides detailed visualization into a person’s metabolic health risks and fitness.

Contact us via email, or by phone at 1-888-552-1603 today to learn more about our LiverFASt™ family of diagnostic tests and HealthFACTR services.

Fibronostics Offices

Strategic locations for global coverage.

About Fibronostics

We are a team of life science experts, physicians, mathematicians, health IT professionals and software architects.

Orlando Offices

Singapore Offices