Is Your Patient Education Strategy Outdated?

October 28, 2017
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Patient Education – How Modern is Your Program

To improve our overall healthcare system, we need to think about how to effectively improve each component.  Patient education is a critical factor when it comes to improving healthcare outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.  But what does patient education currently look like? In most provider organizations it looks exactly the same as it did more than fifty years ago.

Patient education is often delivered via a print out that someone receives post diagnosis, or a diagnosis specific pamphlet that is handed out during the time of a clinical appointment or at discharge. For many organizations little has changed in the past 50 years.

While there is always a place for distributing printed information…isn’t it time for a patient education evolution to take place?  Today’s healthcare consumers, both older and younger generations, are looking to obtain information in forms that are responsive, engaging, specific to them, and interactive.  In other words, they are looking to receive health information in the same way, and via the same channels that they receive information and entertainment in every other aspect of their lives.

In fact, today’s patients are hungry for information related to their health and their diagnosis. Because the medical establishment often times isn’t stepping up to provide the right information, which can be consumed in the correct way, patients are going to other sources for information.  Namely, the internet.

According to a Pew Research study 72% of internet users have gone online for health information within the past year.  In contrast 70% of people have sought out advice and support from a clinician.  Due to the pervasiveness of technology, and the continued lack of healthcare resources, a tipping point is being reached.

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The problem with online patient education isn’t that seeking education related to health conditions or diagnosis online is bad.  The problem is that there is a lack of reliable online sources, and providers are often not steering patients to those that can be helpful.  The medical establishment needs to step up and address this problem.

Someone who searches for information related to a health condition is more likely to end up on a site that doesn’t have a system in place for providing reliable, accurate, and helpful information.  Worse yet, patients can end up on a site that provides incorrect information, or nonclinical advice that can impact the patient’s decision in putting off seeking appropriate medical care.

How can the Healthcare Establishment Improve Patient Education?

The good news is that all of the components needed to improve patient education are already available, they just need to be assembled and utilized in many instances.  Here are five simple ways to improve patient education within your organization, starting with the patient education checklist.

Ask yourself if your organization provides information that meets the following criteria:

  1. Is education disseminated in a number of different ways? Examples include information which is available via print, online websites, patient portals, wellness portals, and via email or smart phone apps
  2. Is education provided in a number of different formats? Are all of your educational materials “read only” materials? Consider adding in some patient education videos, interactive learning programs, online resources, or even live wellness or group program sessions.
  3. Is education specified to the patient? There should be elements of patient education which are specific to an individual and their needs. Often times this means combining the right mix of patient education resources to address each of the unique healthcare challenges that a patient is experiencing.  For instance, someone who has suffered from a stroke might also benefit from education related to depression or identifying and treating depression since depression is a common condition which occurs after a stroke.
  4. Is the education relevant to not only current conditions, but the prevention of possible future conditions? Preventing a disease is always more cost effective than treating one, but if your patient education materials and programs are only focused on treatment, rather than prevention, you are missing the mark. Ensure that you are providing information to patients about conditions that they may be at risk for, and direct them to educational sites and wellness programs that they can participate in.
  5. Are your physicians and clinicians providing alternate reliable sources of information to patients? Is there a system in place for providers to let patients know where they can obtain reliable healthcare information? A clinician’s role in the new age of healthcare information is to guide patients to reliable sources for information.  People are going to go online to find out information about their health – as a trusted provider you can guide them to appropriate sources!
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DocResponse is a platform that was designed to provide healthcare assessment support to providers as well as diagnosis specific information to patients in an interactive online format.  The technology can be seamlessly integrated into wellness portals and healthcare hubs and is currently being utilized across the country to help providers improve efficiency in clinical practice, and to help patients by providing an interactive, trusted, patient education experience online.

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