WHAT IS PATIENT EDUCATION?
Patient education is a critical part of patient care. It includes: instructing patients on follow-up care, prevention, and how to take a proactive role in their own healthcare. Effective patient education can lead to better outcomes and should be a goal of every medical provider.
Unfortunately, patient education is not always easy. Health information is complex, and patients can easily become confused. Without the proper educational resources, doctors, clinical trial professionals, pharmaceutical reps, and other health educators may find teaching patients about medical issues difficult.
To help encourage patient education, we have put together our top five strategies for educating patients effectively.
5 Tips for Better Patient Education
1. Demonstrate Interest and Establish Trust
When teaching patients about medical issues, it is important first to establish trust. Show them that you are interested in more than just their physical well-being. Creating a rapport with your patients will make it easier for them to hear your medical advice later, making it less likely that they will tune out your words.
Some ways that you can demonstrate your interest in patients include:
- Ask how things are going with their work, hobby, home life, etc.
- See if they have been anywhere interesting or if they have upcoming travel plans.
- Find out if they have read any good books or watched any good TV shows or movies recently.
Patients who feel cared for and heard are more receptive to education. In addition, investing a minute or two of non-medical conversation can help put patients at ease, encouraging them to open up more about any problems, medical issues, or worries they might be facing. It can even give you clues about your patient’s preferred style of learning, which leads us to the next strategy.
2. Adapt to the Patient’s Learning Style
Even patients who want to learn may have difficulty doing so if the information is not presented in a way conducive to their style of learning. Barriers can include language, culture, level of formal education, and even misinformation that a patient received from a family member, friend, or the internet.
Some patients will already know what kind of learner they are (visual, auditory, etc.) and might be able to tell you how they learn best. Remember: Teaching patients requires patient teaching. Taking the time to learn how your patients learn will improve patient outcomes in the long run.
3. Use Innovative and Age-Appropriate Education Materials
Patient education materials come in all forms. Newer, more innovative formats are finding their ways into the health education space, giving patients more opportunities to learn in fun and unique ways. Some of these new formats include comic books and podcasts.
Traditional pamphlets or videos are often used in the waiting room. These do have some value, but fresh, individualized approaches to patient education are more likely to be effective in the long run.
Pro tip: Check out Jumo Health’s collection of innovative health education resources.
4. Ask Patients to Explain Information Back to You
Far too often, patients will say that they understand what their doctor told them—even if they really don’t! The reasons why a patient may say they understand something when they don’t are numerous:
- They might be in shock or overwhelmed by a diagnosis and just want to leave.
- They might be too embarrassed to admit that they don’t really understand it.
- They might genuinely think they understand it, but realize later they forgot some important piece.
One way to prevent patients leaving before they fully grasp what you are telling them is to have them repeat the information back to you. When doing so, you can correct details they get wrong or fill in gaps, helping to reinforce the information.
If you suspect a patient is simply repeating what you said without actually understanding it, you can also ask him or her to re-word it in a way that would help a family member or friend understand the information.
5. Educate the Patient’s Family or Caretaker
Two minds—and two memories—are better than one. Inviting a family member, friend, or caretaker to join the education session will help to ensure retention of the medical information. This is especially important for young children or individuals who have a learning disability or special education needs.
Inviting a caregiver to join the conversation can create a feeling of support and community. This may be especially important at a decision-making time, since then there will be at least one other person who understands the issues at hand.
Why Is Patient Education Important?
Patient education is not just a nice thing to do—it actually improves patient outcomes. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, hospitalized patients who receive individualized instruction booklets and instruction from a nurse are 30% less likely to return to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.
Patient education doesn’t just provide patients with useful information. It can have an appreciable, positive impact on their health. Contact us to start the conversation about improved patient education.