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Sometimes, it can be difficult for clinicians to fully understand what each patient wants and needs.

New research about patients with schizophrenia has discovered that it is not only important to find out patient preferences and priorities, but this process can profoundly affect the kind of treatment delivered.

By conducting a study on patient preferences, researchers at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton have uncovered new ways to offer patients diagnosed with schizophrenia treatment that helps them to meet their recovery goals. The study was published in a recent issue of Schizophrenia Research and was funded by the CARSTAR Automotive Canada Research Innovation Fund.

“About 70% to 80% of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia will see a remission in symptoms with psychiatric treatment.  However, only 15% of these patients fulfill our criteria for recovery – which is defined as sustained improvement in both symptoms and functioning,” says Dr. Robert Zipursky, psychiatrist at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and the study’s principal investigator. “As psychiatrists, we wonder why so few patients are able to achieve that.”

The research revealed that patients with schizophrenia fall into one of three categories. Each of these patient categories has different outcome preferences for recovery.

The patients were categorized based on their preferred outcomes. The first group was the largest, making up 48% of respondents. This group preferred working full-time and living independently.

The second group preferred living alone and accepted having some symptoms and medication side-effects. The third group preferred to live in a supervised setting and had a strong preference for not having any symptoms and side-effects.

Dr. Zipursky believes that appreciating that patient preferences fall into these different categories can then help to shape treatment for patients with schizophrenia.

“We should find ways to deliver care that are respectful of the preferences and priorities that are important to patients,” says Dr. Zipursky. “Depending on what individual patients’ goals are, they might also have preferences for the different treatment strategies.”

These findings should allow psychiatrists to engage in a more personalized approach to schizophrenia treatment. Treatment that takes personal preferences into account could also result in improved patient outcomes – as it allows clinicians to better guide each patient with their road to recovery.

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