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3 tips for better patient education

Why patient education is important

Patient education is critical for many reasons, most importantly because it helps patients make informed decisions. This is one of the tenets of patient-centered medical care—to engage patients in the decision-making process. When patients understand their diagnosis and potential treatment options, they’re more engaged and can choose whether and how they want to receive care.

Providing patients with precise information also helps avoid the spread of misinformation that has become increasingly problematic as patients Google symptoms and draw inaccurate conclusions. When patients are properly informed, providers spend less time dispelling myths and more time formulating treatment plans that can improve outcomes.

Finally, patient education improves the overall patient experience. When medical practices invest in cost-effective strategies and tools, patients notice and appreciate it. They feel as though their provider truly cares about their engagement and well-being.

Moving into a digital age

One challenge for today’s medical practices? Providing patient education when and how patients want to receive it. In the past, patient education might have included a simple handout or brochure. Although these tools are still helpful, there are also other more innovative ways to educate today’s tech-savvy patients. Forward-thinking practices will explore and pursue some of these options.

Interestingly, YouTube last year announced a new team to bring more authoritative health content to the platform. In the announcement, YouTube said: ‘There is a clear need for more trusted and easy-to-understand health content online. There is a gap between user expectations, formed by their experiences as users of apps and services that were built for online-first, and the way that the healthcare ecosystem educates and connects with patients. The majority of existing health information online is predominantly text-based and lacks the accessibility, depth, and engagement that patients seek.’

What does this mean for today’s medical practices? Be prepared to engage patients differently—and use a more digital approach.

Consider these tips to take your patient education strategy to the next level:

  1. Engage your life science representatives. Life science reps are not only aware of the breadth of resources their companies have for patients, but they can also connect you directly to other internal experts and resources. You may think their resources are limited to patient educational materials, but their toolkit of resources increasingly includes websites, educational videos, patient communities, digital health and wearables and the hubs their companies operate to support patients. And, they can connect you directly to other specialized internal life science experts when needed, like nurse navigators.
  2. Recommend consumer-facing apps and devices. Many of today’s consumer-facing products include some component of patient education that can help patients stay on track health-wise. For example, fitness apps can help patients track their exercise and suggest exercises to target specific goals. Nutrition apps help patients track their food intake and recommend tips to cut calories and choose foods more wisely. Other devices help patients monitor trends in heart rate and blood pressure and recommend interventions, when necessary. Recommending certain apps or devices makes it easier for patients to get on board with using them.
  3. Explore other information technology (IT) solutions. There are many patient education IT companies that can integrate with electronic medical records, patient portals, telemedicine apps, and public-facing websites. Others provide digital signage for waiting areas and exam rooms. These solutions can help improve patient education and even address health literacy challenges. Many of these solutions also provide information in several languages and in multiple formats (e.g., videos, interactive tutorials, and illustrated handouts).

We’ll leave you with this question: What is your medical practice doing to educate patients, and is it time to re-evaluate your strategy?









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