It is seldom questioned, if information delivered (to a patient) actually produces knowledge. There is a lack of understanding of how patients in general, surgical patients in particular, perceive, process, and translate clinical information in their everyday lives. The objective of this study was to elucidate how patients undergoing spinal fusion surgery manage and assimilate information provided by clinicians and how they adapt and embrace this information pre- and postsurgery.
The study employed qualitative methods of ethnographic observation and semistructured interview with a total of 14 individuals, that is, spinal fusion patients (n = 6) and clinicians (n = 8) over a 4-month period in 2014.
The results highlight that in the course of treatment, patients embrace or reject information on the basis of their previous experience, expectations, and confidence in their own ability. Overall, patients adjusting to everyday life after spinal fusion surgery used 4 strategies of information processing about their individual life situation. Patients do not use just one of these strategies but may use a number of strategies depending on the situation. Such production of knowledge is pivotal to the behavior of patients through their treatment trajectory.
This study points to the challenges of supporting patients to assimilate information and affect health-related behaviors, recognizing that knowledge and behavior change are emergent processes in patients and not a linear outcome of information.