CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Oct. 18, 1999
UI psychology research to aid doctors in choosing treatment
to suit individuals
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A team of University of Iowa researchers
has won a nearly $650,000 four-year grant from the National Institutes of
Health to study the psychological factors that affect patients compliance
with prescribed medical treatments.
Alan Christensen, a UI associate professor of psychology
and the primary investigator for this study, along with Dr. William Lawton
and Dr. Andrew Bertolatus, both associate professors of internal medicine,
will study patients with kidney disease to find out which of several treatment
options works best for individual personality types.
Patients experiencing chronic renal failure must undergo
either a form of life-long kidney dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.
Dialysis can be administered in a clinic by a nurse or technician or can be
self-administered at home. Christensen said the various treatment options
can all be quite effective as long as the patient adheres strictly to the
But how can doctors know whether their patients will
follow one treatment plan better than the other? Right now, there is little
psychological data to help doctors determine whether their patients
personalities are better suited to the active role of administering their
own dialysis, receiving a renal transplant, or to the passive role of allowing
a clinician to run the dialysis.
"In health care weve often made the assumption
that more control is better for all patients, but this is not always the case,"
Christensen said. "Some people prefer to remain passive and allow healthcare
providers to direct and manage the treatment."
Earlier research has shown that the majority of people
dont comply with prescribed medical treatments, Christensen said. While
in some cases this failure is as simple as not completing a course of antibiotics,
other cases, such as skipping a kidney dialysis session, can have serious
"We need to understand what factors influence
whether or not patients follow a medical regimen," he said. "This
will lead us to finding ways to increase compliance."
Toward this end, Christensen and his colleagues will
interview patients in the early stages of renal disease to assess their potential
suitability to various treatment plans. The team will interview patients,
asking a series of questions to assess each patients usual methods of
coping with or responding to health-related stress and experiences.
The team will then follow these patients through their
treatment to see how they respond to the regimen they and their doctors have
chosen. By comparing personality types with responses to specific treatments,
Christensen and his team will be able to point to characteristics that make
a person suitable for one type of treatment over another.
The team will also study patients who are preparing
for kidney transplants in order to gather hard evidence about the types of
people who are most likely to comply with lifelong post-transplant treatment
plans. Currently, Christensen said, patients are psychologically evaluated
before transplants, but these assessments are not based on any hard data that
can predict the type of person who will adapt well to the life-changing procedure.
"By the end of this four-year project, we hope
to produce solid research findings that specifically point to psychological
and social factors that reliably predict which patients respond most favorably
to particular treatments," Christensen said.