Commentary

The Impact Of Knowledge: Patient Education Improves Compliance And Outcomes

The proper diagnosis of a disease and effective treatments are, of course, essential to an individual’s prognosis and quality of life. But there is also compelling evidence about the value of being sufficiently informed; a patient’s misunderstanding of a condition and its care can result in non-compliance to a doctor’s recommendations, significantly and adversely affecting outcomes. The more clearly a disease is understood, the more likely it is that an individual will be comfortable with their care and adhere to necessary regimens. 

The impact of education and preparation

A patient must be adequately prepared and informed to manage their disease, instructions from their physician, and potential side effects of any interventions. Cancer treatments, for example, can be extremely intimidating. Adequate knowledge about what can be expected during and after chemotherapy and other procedures is critical; research published in Seminars in Oncology Nursing has long shown that patients with cancer “benefit in terms of knowledge acquisition, enhanced self-care, reduced anxiety, enhanced self-concept and self-esteem, increased satisfaction with care, improved pain control, improved oral status, and a reduced disruption in daily functioning.” 

And considering that some patients undergo treatments at home, such as oral chemotherapy and caring for central venous catheters, while others meet the difficult demands of regular infusion chemotherapy in a variety of settings, educational programs can make a real difference in adherence to a regimen and the corresponding outcome. Learning about their condition means these individuals have the knowledge to undertake their treatments with confidence and, in some cases, are likelier able to do so safely outside a medical facility. 

The impact of not being informed: Lack of adherence

In “Approaches to Patient Education: Emphasizing the Long-Term Value of Compliance and Persistence,” published in The American Journal of Medicine, Deborah T. Gold, PhD and Betsy McClung, MN, RN found that “patient education significantly improves compliance with medication across a broad range of conditions and disease severities.” Conversely, “lack of compliance is associated with poor clinical outcomes, increased hospitalizations, lower quality of life, and higher overall health costs.” But the challenge of educating patients is multi-faceted, especially when you consider the complexity of many diseases and the fact that nearly than half of American adults have limited health literacy, according to an estimate from the National Academy of Medicine. 

As healthcare providers and healthcare marketers recognize the undeniable benefits of effective education in improving patient outcomes, more easily understandable and efficient methods of disseminating information are required. Resources need to be presented in laymen’s terms to communicate in a way that’s understandable and impactful for all patients. Additionally, materials should be authored at various reading levels and in different languages. 

Patient education benefits everyone

Beyond the clear value of education for patients, it also provides massive advantages for providers. Physical therapist Olga Dreeben summarized many of the benefits across healthcare disciplines in Patient Education in Rehabilitation:

  • Patient education programs attract patients to the provider and increase their satisfaction with their care 
  • These programs can also decrease the provider’s liability
  • Patient education promotes patient-centered care and increases adherence to medication and treatments
  • An increase in compliance leads to a more efficient and cost-effective healthcare delivery system
  • Educating patients ensures continuity of care and reduces complications related to the illness

The challenge for healthcare marketers 

Healthcare marketers need to contribute to patient education while understanding the fine line between how much information is necessary and when it becomes overload. Materials must be created that are effective and adaptable to readers across different languages, media, and levels of knowledge. And a consensus must also be formed between physicians and healthcare systems about the importance of providing educational materials in the most effective formats possible – so patients will understand the information, be comfortable with their care, and confidently use this knowledge as they tackle their condition.

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