Uncertainty in Healthcare

A Multi-Level Approach

Authored by: Sara E. Andrews , Kate Sweeny

Handbook of Personal Security

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848726758
eBook ISBN: 9781315713595
Adobe ISBN: 9781317498476


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Uncertainty is a pervasive, dynamic, and anxiety-provoking experience (Penrod, 2001). It is aversive, even to the point that people will cut short positive experiences simply to resolve the feeling of uncertainty more quickly under certain circumstances (Bar-Anan, Wilson, & Gilbert, 2009). Nowhere is the pervasive and discomforting experience of uncertainty demonstrated more clearly than in healthcare settings, where patients may encounter all manner of threatening health information, profound uncertainty, and prolonged waits. At many points in the healthcare process patients must simply wait for uncertain news about their diagnosis, prognosis, treatment options, and coverage status. Patients can feel uncertain about what their symptoms mean, when they will be seen by a doctor, how they will pay for expensive treatments, whether a biopsy will indicate a malignancy, and even whether they will be able to recover from injury or illness. They may experience uncertainty as a result of both controllable and uncontrollable factors, their interactions with healthcare providers, and the healthcare system at large.

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