Study examines patient knowledge of urinary tract infections

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"The objective of this study was to assess baseline knowledge about urinary tract infections, interest in health resources, and platform preferences for health information acquisition and dissemination," says Stephanie Gleicher, MD.

Stephanie Gleicher, MD

Stephanie Gleicher, MD

In this interview, Stephanie Gleicher, MD, describes the background and notable findings from the recent Urology paper “Assessment and Acquisition of Knowledge Regarding Urinary Tract infection among Adult Women in the United States.” Gleicher is a urologist with Northwell Health in Garden City, New York.

Please provide an overview of this study and its results.

The objective of this study was to assess baseline knowledge about urinary tract infections, interest in health resources, and platform preferences for health information acquisition and dissemination. To answer these questions, we surveyed adult females who reported a urinary tract infection in the past 12 months. Ultimately, we recruited 687 women. We found that a lot of women feel that UTIs are caused by lack of cleanliness and that most women suffer from UTIs. We also found that women do appreciate that UTIs are prevented with water as well as supplements. With regards to barriers to attaining health information, we found that a lot of women reported that medical language is just too complex. We also found that most subjects in the study do rely on their health care providers for health information and prefer office-based formats for obtaining health information. Finally, we found that over 50% of the females would like to receive health information regarding urinary tract infections. Ultimately, I think we found that there are some misconceptions about urinary tract infections. We also found that there are barriers that exist to obtaining evidence-based information. We learned a little bit about preferences for obtaining health information. But I definitely think we still have a lot of research ahead of us [to] better understand how to craft these materials and reach our target audiences.

Could you elaborate on the most surprising or interesting misconceptions surrounding UTI causes that you encountered in this study?

Most women realize that fluid intake does prevent infections, and a smaller number, but still about 50% of the cohort, agree that supplements can prevent infections. But then we also found that about 50% of women felt like infections are caused by lack of cleanliness and tight-fitting clothes. They also felt that cranberry juice prevents infections. They also felt that most women suffer from urinary tract infections. The thing that I think providers who manage women who have recurrent infections or infections in general struggle with is this belief about hygienic practice contributing to urinary tract infections, and we know that that is not usually the case. I think it's just a testament to us doing a better job of promoting evidence-based materials.

The study showed a preference for health care professionals as a source of UTI information, but also identified a perception of complex medical language as a barrier. How do you see these findings informing future patient education strategies?

I think these findings are critical in helping us craft educational resources that would be easily understood and easily disseminated by trusted health care providers. The goal would be to design materials that are evidence based, but comprehensible. And so like I said, this is really just the start of further research that we need to do to better understand how to craft those materials and distribute on a large scale.

Could you discuss what kind of information or format you envision would be most helpful for patients with recurrent UTIs?

Based on the feedback we received, information should be easily delivered by their health care providers in a clear, concise manner. I think, again, further qualitative research with maybe a more well-rounded group of women would be very helpful for us. The interesting thing that we also captured in our data was that really, almost everyone has a smartphone. And so that really opens the door to interactive app-based resources. But again, because we were using data from a web-based survey, we don't know if that reflects the general population and accessibility to technology. So I think, overall, it would probably be some sort of combination of hard-copy materials that you can leave the doctor's office with, as well as maybe web-based materials that would optimize information dissemination.

What are some next steps you see for improving public understanding and preventing UTIs?

I think the next step would be, again, additional research to better fine tune what effective UTI information dissemination looks like to a more generalizable audience. I think, though, on a small scale, as a provider who treats a lot of patients who suffer from recurrent infections, it's really just my job to promote evidence-based information about UTI prevention and management within my practice and community.

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