It’s not news to doctors that an important part of their job is educating their patients about their health and medical conditions. The problem is that a meaningful interaction takes time—one thing that doctors don’t have. A 2013 Medscape survey found that the largest group of physician responders spent between 13 and 16 minutes per patient.
Fortunately, many opportunities for education exist during a patient’s visit outside of the exam room. Following are four strategies to help healthcare providers solve the patient education dilemma.
1. Use a nurse or health educator to provide patients with additional education.
A study from the Journal of Hypertension found that patients quickly forget about 40% of what physicians tell them. After an appointment is over, patients may have questions or need more information; perhaps they have been diagnosed with a chronic condition that requires education to manage it effectively. Setting up time to have an educator meet with patients—either individually or in a group—can help patients address concerns that may not have been covered during their visit, and reinforce any instructions or recommendations.
2. Replace print content with videos where appropriate.
Healthcare providers often provide patients with written educational materials, but videos may be more effective at helping patients retain information. A study in the Journal of Medical Education found that showing patients a video followed by brief one-on-one meetings with healthcare providers saved physicians time without affecting the amount of information patients retained compared with prolonged individual meetings.
Healthcare providers can create their own videos or use videos created by patient education companies.
3. Use technology to share educational content with patients.
Putting educational articles and videos about health conditions and their treatment on a practice’s website allows patients and their loved ones to access this information any time. Doctors can create their own content for their patients, or they can offer high-quality materials provided by cloud-based patient education programs.
Doctors may also want to provide their patients with more targeted information via a content management platform. If a patient is considering hip replacement, for example, their orthopedist can select educational content from a library of information about the procedure that will help the patient make a decision, and email it to them, post it on their patient portal, upload it to a personal web page that the patient can view, or even share it on a mobile device in the office. This saves time at the next appointment, because the patient will be informed and ready to take an active role in his or her treatment decisions.
4. Give patients the information they are looking for as soon as they walk in the door.
Cloud-based technology also lets practices offer patients focused education in the waiting room. And because data is stored and accessed over the internet instead of on a computer’s hard drive, it doesn’t require additional hardware, but can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. This includes a flat-screen TV, a tablet, or a patient’s smartphone.
With these options, healthcare providers can syndicate content or develop and use their own. Content may include health risk assessments, articles, videos, slideshows, patient testimonials, customized messaging, and relevant surveys.
Keeping patients up to date on their condition and their care shouldn’t be a stumbling block, especially with all of the technology options available. By providing them with the information they need in a way they can use it, practices have the opportunity to help patients become more empowered partners in their healthcare.