Should I give my patients homework?

A number of my colleagues have complained to me that patients expect so much of their doctors but don’t actually do anything in return – by this I mean they don’t actually follow the instructions of their doctors, take their medicines, listen to the advice, etc, etc.

Which leads me to the question – should I give my patients homework? We are meant to be in the era of patient/consumer empowerment. This means taking responsibility for one’s own healthcare (decisions). Doing homework might be a way of completing the deal.

Any doctor knows that his/her patients spend a lot of time consulting diverse sources to become health literate. This ranges from consulting aunt Mavis to asking the boys at the pub to searching the internet. Mostly it is searching the internet.

Rather than letting the patients search blindly and discovering somewhere in the corners of Google that Mexican Cafe Latte Enema Therapy cures cancer why not prescribe a homework program that actually sends people to reliable information and education?

Homework is used in cognitive-behavioural therapy to good effect. Maybe there are other applications.

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