Ensuring patients understand their health is the best way to spark patient activation. And much like how they collaborate with colleagues remotely and order groceries online, they’ve come to expect a digital delivery of their health education. Educating patients via their desired digital experience requires the enthusiastic adoption of digital-first approaches while maintaining a patient-centric focus in care delivery.
Your health care organization needs to think about patient education in new ways. Answer the following questions as you evaluate your patient education to ensure you’re delivering the best experience for patients and clinicians.
What is patient education?
Patient education influences patient behavior to produce changes in knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to maintain or improve health. It’s critically important as the leading causes of death in the United States are closely associated with unhealthy habits and lifestyle—factors patients can correct and control.1 Beyond prevention, patient education helps patients understand their diagnoses and follow their care and medication plans, while teaching self-management skills.
Understanding unique patient personalities, health needs, and learning styles is key to selecting the most effective patient education strategies that may include high-quality, credible, and health literate content on a wide range of topics in multiple formats (print, videos, podcasts), accessed through several platforms, from digital to traditional.
Why is patient education so important?
32% of patients avoid telling clinicians they don’t understand the information or instructions provided during a visit.2 This lack of understanding can have tremendous consequences: patients who don’t understand their doctors are less likely to adhere to their care plan, and patient outcomes may suffer.
Patient education is a vital strategy that can help activate patients in their health, from discovery to recovery. Patients engaged through patient education are more likely to trust and follow their doctor’s care recommendations, make more informed decisions, better manage their health, and report better outcomes.
While printed patient education has its time and place (usually in consultations or as post-visit reminders), new platforms that integrate patient education in the EHR and clinical workflows further help streamline clinician efforts. These platforms can provide personalized educational content and align patients with easy-to-understand, consistent instructions, and resources that they can access at multiple points of care.
What makes good patient education?
Best-in-class patient education is:
- Credible, clinically validated, clearly understood, and actionable, encouraging patients to participate in their own care
- Personalized and made available along a patient’s entire health journey
- Presented at a 6th-grade or lower reading level3
- Inclusive and accessible to diverse patient populations
- Offered in multiple languages, with closed captioning, and supporting other equal access opportunities
- Available with local customization
- Accessible on any device, particularly mobile—as it drives more than 50% of all internet traffic4
- Available via diverse formats—downloadable print media, texts (much like Continued Care automated text messaging), video, and interactive formats (surveys, chat apps, or message boards)—accessed through a singular patient portal
- Leveraged to attract new patients, teach them better self-management strategies, prepare them for visits or procedures, encourage treatment plan adherence, and provide real-time updates on emerging health crises
- Easy for clinicians to “prescribe” to patients and track their interaction with it when it’s integrated directly into the EHR workflow with customized resources like Krames On FHIR® and Krames On-Demand
Why should you work with a patient education vendor?
The cost and effort of producing patient education that appeals to today’s consumers are typically beyond a health system’s in-house capabilities. Staffing a complete creative team with niche expertise gets expensive—requiring additional, high-performance employees as well as pricey software, hardware infrastructure, and dedicated IT. Not to mention, patient education technology continues to evolve and it can be cumbersome just trying to keep up.
Teaming with the right patient education vendors is key to scaling solutions that fit your organization. A good patient education company provides consistent, high-quality education created by expert medical writers, editors, designers, and illustrators. Equally important, the content is rooted in behavior change science to motivate patients to adhere to their prescribed care plans.5
Working with the right patient education vendor instills confidence that your patient education reflects the most up-to-date CDC and WHO recommendations, follows all state and local regulatory requirements, and is supported by appropriate accreditation and certification programs. You also know you’re expanding your ability to serve all patients with content on emerging health areas such as gender affirmation, mental health, pediatric wellness, post-COVID care, and therapeutic diets.
How do you choose a patient education vendor?
Choose a vendor that understands the need for trusted, actionable patient content along with the clinical experience. The ultimate vendor should set you up with health care educational solutions that can be integrated into your system’s clinical workflow (especially EHRs like Epic, Cerner, Meditech, and Allscripts).
Integration enables a patient education platform to recommend content based on the patient’s personal information and data from the clinical encounter. Solutions such as Krames + Care Plans map teaching points to highly individualized care plans to increase the quality of care and standardize care across a health system.
1 AAFP core educational guidelines. Patient education. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Oct 1;62(7): 1712-1714.
2 Levy A, Scherer A, Zikmund-Fisher J, et al. Prevalence of and factors associated with patient nondisclosure of medically relevant information to clinicians. JAMA Network Open. 2018; 1(7):e185293.
3 Safeer R, Keenan J. Health Literacy: The gap between physicians and patients. Am Fam Physician. 2005; 72(3):463-468.
4 Chaffey D. Mobile marketing statistics complication 2021. Smart Insights Web site. https://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics. Published March 30, 2021. Accessed June 22, 2021.
5 Angle T. How technology paired with behavioral science can help patients achieve better health outcomes. Health Care Guys Web site. https://www.healthcareguys.com/2021/03/11/how-technology-paired-with-behavioral-science-can-help-patients-achieve-better-health-outcomes. Published March 11, 2021. Accessed June 15, 2021.
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