Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 375–383 | Cite as

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Patients’ Ideal Expectations and Recent Experiences with Healthcare Providers: A National Survey

  • Albena Halpert
  • Christine B. Dalton
  • Olafur Palsson
  • Carolyn Morris
  • Yuming Hu
  • Shrikant Bangdiwala
  • Jane Hankins
  • Nancy Norton
  • Douglas A. Drossman
Original Article


The purpose of this paper is to identify patients’ ideal expectations from their healthcare providers. The IBS-Patient Education Questionnaire was developed using focus groups, and was administered to a national sample of IBS patients. Frequencies of item endorsements were obtained. Subgroup analysis was done comparing the responses for patients’ ideal expectations of their healthcare providers vs. their experiences with their last provider. Among the 1,242 patients who completed the survey, the mean age was 39.3 years, educational attainment 15 years, 85% female, IBS duration 6.9 years, 1,028 (83%) had seen a physician for IBS in the past, and 92.6% have used the Internet to obtain health information. Among the subjects who have seen a physician for IBS, the most desired qualities of providers were to give comprehensive information (96%), to refer to a source for additional information (95.8%), to answer questions (95.9%), to listen (94.4%), to provide information about IBS studies and medications (94%), and to provide support (88.6%) and hope (82.1%). Importantly, patients’ prior experiences with their last healthcare provider differed from their ideal expectations: “provide information” (38.3%); answer questions during the visit (68%), “to listen” (63.8%), and support (47.1%). Patients’ ideal expectations from healthcare providers (what patients ideally would like to experience) relate to obtaining information and relationship needs of receiving support and hope. Notably, their prior experiences with recent healthcare providers (what patients perceived actually occurred) were different from their ideal expectations. A better understanding of different types of expectations is necessary in order to construct an effective therapeutic relationship, which is critical for the management of IBS. Practice implications: Practice guidelines for IBS should emphasize a better understanding of a patient’s expectations and the therapeutic value of patient–provider communication.


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) Functional bowel disorders Patient expectations Patient education Patient–physician interaction 



This study was sponsored by Glaxo Smith Kline Institute for Digestive Diseases Health Care Advancement Award and by partial funds from unrestricted educational grants from Procter & Gamble and Forest Laboratory. These pharmaceutical companies had no role in the development of the project or data interpretation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albena Halpert
    • 1
  • Christine B. Dalton
    • 2
  • Olafur Palsson
    • 2
  • Carolyn Morris
    • 2
  • Yuming Hu
    • 2
  • Shrikant Bangdiwala
    • 2
  • Jane Hankins
    • 2
  • Nancy Norton
    • 3
  • Douglas A. Drossman
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Digestive DisordersBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.UNC-CH Center for Functional GI & Motility DisordersChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal DisordersMilwaukeeUSA

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