At any given moment, a patient with a recent diagnosis and a physician-supplied prescription is scouring the Internet to find out more about the drug he or she is being asked to take. In the process, the patient typically will find a range of information from a number of sources: manufacturers, hospital systems, advocacy groups and other patients sharing their experience in chat rooms and on blogs. Such online engagement has quickly become common practice: the norm rather than the exception. One can only hope that in this vast new world of resources, a patient will find useful information, but that’s by no means a guarantee. In fact, some online resources can leave a patient feeling even more confused or concerned!
In terms of the different types of content available online, video has become king, with eight out of 10 Internet users in the U.S. viewing online video and six out of 10 pharma consumers indicating a demand for health videos. Because of video’s ability to create a more personal connection, video spots in branded or disease education campaigns can be an effective way to encourage patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals to engage and act. The ROI is concrete: 93% of pharma users take action after viewing health information in videos, and 60% interact with their doctor as a result of watching a video.
How then can pharma brands create compelling video content with truly useful information that elevates the patient experience? How do you overcome perceptions that company sponsored sites are self-serving and biased? And how do you manage patient-shared experiences that may not accurately represent the medicine in question? You need to take the right approach.
See on www.the-pep.com
Patient and family education is an important responsibility of a healthcare organization. Healthcare employees who deal directly with patients help in informing them and their family members about everything related
It is clear that patient and family education training is very important. Here are some reasons why:
- Once healthcare facilities understand the needs of the patients and their families, it enables them to improve their quality of care and increase efficiency.
- Increase in healthcare costs is a growing concern for patients and their families. Appropriate education can help them save costs by informing them about their conditions and helping them with alternative options for costly treatments.
- Education encourages better compliance to rules, as the patients now understand the reasons for those rules. Also, once patients are aware of their medical conditions and what the doctors are doing to help them, it makes them less anxious and more comfortable.
- Patient education increases motivation, satisfaction, and compliance as it gets the patients involved in their own care and treatment decisions.
- Previous research has shown that using resources and materials for patient education has significantly improved communication between patients and healthcare employees.
There is no universal structure for patient and family education. The employees must customize the education pattern for every patient after considering their preferences and needs. Thus, you can see why patient and family education training is so important for employees. The training helps them become knowledgeable and develop good communication skills in order to deliver good patient education. Thus now you have the importance of patient and family education in a nutshell.
See on www.askabouteducation.com
Kevin Pho, MD, is perhaps the most recognized physician voice in social media. Pho, more commonly known as KevinMD, has an online audience of more than 100,000 between his blog, Facebook, Twitter and RSS (really simple syndication) feed.
A primary care physician at Nashua (N.H.) Medical Group, Pho recently spoke with Curaspan Connections about how social media has emerged as a tool to help health-care providers communicate with their patients.
Curaspan: Why should health-care providers care about social media?
Kevin Pho: There is a tremendous opportunity to communicate information that is helpful to patients. With social media, physicians now have a platform to correct some of the misconceptions that may be out there in a way that reaches a wide patient audience. I look at this as an opportunity for data curation. We’re able to pull aside the curtain and show what’s behind some of the stories patients may be hearing. Clearly, social media is changing the way patients receive information.
How does a provider get started?
You can start with a blog, like I did, and then use some of the newer applications like Facebook and Twitter to drive awareness and traffic to your blog. I think if someone is going to get started, he would need to be someone who is passionate about what is happening in the health-care space and willing to take the time to get the information out there.
Is it time-consuming?
It takes a commitment when you get up at 4 a.m. every day. I spend two to three hours a day on it, very early, then again at night. That’s why so few doctors are actively blogging. Who has the time? But I look at this as building a digital footprint, preparing for the future. When I first started blogging in 2004, physician blogs were in their infancy. But you’re starting to see more of a physician voice now. I’m glad to have been out there early.
What inspired you to start your blog?
Patient education. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and I think it’s important to steer patients to the right information. My patients would see something on TV and wonder, “How does this affect me?” They’d see a new study and ask the same question. Not everything was being reported, and there were questions. I recognized there was a huge opportunity to pull aside the curtain, and I wanted to do something about it.
There are a lot of things that can be fixed with health care, and physicians need a platform to express themselves. The good news is that we’re now parlaying this from a social media platform to mainstream media.
You were interviewed by CBS Evening News. What kind of impact has that had?
That really legitimized the voice of the physician blogger and gave us credibility. In the past, sources of information were only academic medical centers. This legitimized what we’re doing and made it trustworthy. I think there’s a recognition now that the physician blogging voice is a good source of information.
Can you share some specific issues you’ve addressed?
Back in 2004, when Merck recalled Vioxx, I got a lot of calls from patients asking “What do I do?” This got me thinking that there were a lot of questions out there and the news was changing every day. I thought there was a need for a physician voice. And as you look around today, there are new sets of questions.
Health-care reform. How does it affect doctors? How does it affect patients? There is such a wide spectrum of opinions, and I present both sides. Another area of concern for patients was the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation about the timing of breast cancer screening. I wanted to present the facts in the right context.
What I do is guide patients to reputable sources of information. I can’t give out personal medical advice. My goal is to help educate.
Has your notoriety helped attract new patients?
The feedback has been very positive. We’re a hospital-owned practice and I’ve been written up in the local newspaper. I don’t directly use my blog to market the practice but locally, if someone is new to town and types “New Hampshire doctors” into search, I’m there. This is not the majority, but it’s laying groundwork for the future.
We’re laying the foundation for years down the road when everyone is using Google to find a doctor. Typically, health care trends a few years behind what’s happening in the marketplace. One tip I’ve always had is to look at what’s happening in other areas, spot those trends and see how I can apply it to what I’m doing. This is an exciting time. In health care, there’s something new every day and I’m glad to be in a position to help educate patients.
So where is this all going?
I see a social media network for health-care providers. You’re finding doctors on Facebook now, but it’s their personal pages. There is no killer site for health-care providers. I do think that in three to five years health-care professionals will adopt this en masse. I’m sure someone is working on it now, because it’s approaching a tipping point.
One of the things you’ll see in the future is less siloing of social media. You won’t see someone so focused on a blog, Facebook or Twitter. In general, this will all come together in one social media presence. The key is to get it on as many platforms as possible.
See on connect.curaspan.com
If a patient does not have a solid understanding, they cannot be engaged. Patient engagement must begin with education. When attempting to educate a patient, many factors will come into play. The level of health literacy, the learning style of the patient, the ability of the physician to explain and the quality of patient handout materials are all factors in how thorough of an understanding the patient will have when they leave.
Health literacy is an issue that spans across all demographics and intelligence levels. It is the ability to read and understand information about your health and make decisions about it. Health literacy is critical in engaging patients and motivating them to practice self-management of chronic diseases, medication adherence and care transition. Because of time constraints, it is common for physicians to provide printed handouts to patients in lieu of offering an extensive explanation. This leaves a substantial amount of patients without a conclusive understanding of their responsibility to manage their health.
People have different learning styles. Some individuals learn best when being spoken to, others will need to be shown and some just have to do it themselves. Educating patients with their preferred learning style helps ensure their engagement and understanding of the material. A physician who struggles with communicating information in terms the patient can understand can even turn off patients with auditory learning styles. Providing materials for the patient to take home is crucial in ensuring they have a comprehensive understanding of their responsibilities.
Many patients will nod in assurance they understand, but leave without any knowledge of even a simple required task such as when to take their medication. Many patients are too anxious and confused to ask valuable questions at the physician’s office. This often leads to a preventable readmission into the hospital. Providing materials for the patient to view at home can lead to a dramatic reduction in readmission rates, but they must be in an engaging format.
Ideally, physicians should offer a variety of materials that address multiple learning styles, various levels of health literacy and can evoke emotion. Printed health education materials will be ideal for many, but videos will help bridge educational and language barriers, especially with complex situations. Having a variety of tools that work to both engage and educate the patient, allows them to make better decisions regarding their health.
“Effective patient education ensures that patients have sufficient information and understanding to make informed decisions regarding their care.”
American Academy of Family Physicians’ Guidelines for Patient Education
In order for Information Therapy to be effective, the patient education materials used must be both accessible and understandable. Whenever I pose a simple question to doctors about their approach towards patient education and what tools they use for this purpose, their knee-jerk response is – ‘We use print material’. Printed material indeed is one of the most commonly used forms of patient education worldwide. They are either in the form of typical handouts given to patients by healthcare professionals or can be accessed via various health websites. These materials are and always will continue to be one of the most cost-effective methods of patient education for the masses. I am not contesting the efficacy of printed material but I am sure that this not always the best solution in poor countries where health illiteracy is so widespread, and where many health education materials are difficult to understand. This is especially true in India which is many countries within a country! As a result, we miss out on harnessing the power of patient education. Hence it is important to apply a patient-centered approach to developing patient educational material.
As a company involved in developing effective patient education material, we have come across various challenges and situations which have helped us create some simple yet effective ways of delivering patient education material using various media. High-quality patient education material respects the principles of adult learning and should be able to:
- Adapt teaching to the patient’s level of readiness, past experience, cultural beliefs and understanding
- Create an environment conducive to learning with trust, respect and acceptance
- Involve patients throughout the learning process by encouraging them to establish their own goals
- Provide motivation by presenting material relevant to the patient’s needs
- Provide opportunities for patients to demonstrate their understanding of information and to practice skills
Barriers in creating patient education material
To overcome the communication barriers created by poor health literacy, it is important to put the patient first when developing educational materials. In India, patient education is still a comparatively new field. While designing engaging patient education material, we come across various issues, practical problems and challenges. The most important of these problems are:
- Financial considerations
- Misconceptions about disease and treatment
- Low literacy and comprehension skills
- Fear of doctors
- Language barriers
- Negative past experiences with doctors
- Denial of personal responsibility and a sense of fatalism
Over time, we have been able to build a team of doctors, artists and digital graphic specialists. We can tap into our experience and expertise in this niche area, to produce a wide variety of materials which are adapted to Indian conditions. We have made a conscious decision to use the animated format. This is universally understood; so that we do not have to reinvent the wheel every time we create new content.
Elements of successful patient education
- Educational materials should be engaging and leave an impact on the patient’s mind, thus increasing patient confidence and fostering fast recovery
- Ease of access and navigation also forms a key feature of patient education programs, thus facilitating easy understanding of the health care plan
- It should help the patient to develop a positive approach towards his/her health-related problems and not scare him
- It should help to dispel common myths and misconceptions
Verbal communication between patient and doctor should ideally be in the same language. But in a country like India, it is impossible for a doctor to know all the regional languages and dialects. A knowledge-rich patient education material dubbed in multiple regional languages can solve this problem for doctors.
- Cultural beliefs
Culture affects how people communicate, understand, and respond to health information. To produce positive health outcomes, it is important for health organizations and doctors to recognize the local cultural beliefs, values, attitudes, traditions, language preferences, and health practices. This means that it’s often necessary to customise patient education materials for local needs. The use of modern digital media allows us to do this easily!
- Infrastructure requirement
Multimedia patient education materials can be used with a wide variety of devices. The good news is that many doctors own smartphones which can be easily used to facilitate one-on-one dialogue with the patient. Print materials should be placed where they can be accessed easily and the visuals are not distorted.
Types and tools to deliver patient education material
- Oral Communication
Communicating one-to-one with the patient is and always will be the cornerstone of effective patient education. In today’s scenario, it is very important the doctor spends enough time answering all of the patients’ queries. Quality is more important than quantity.
As I mentioned earlier, print material is the most economical and effective way of teaching patients. It is always good to give patients written explanations of their conditions and treatments. One should always look out for materials containing trusted content but at the same time make sure the materials are suitable for everyone. When choosing printed materials, one should remember that the layout and graphics play an important role. We have used a wide variety of printed materials, including:
- Pop-up books
- Comic books
- Illustrated books
- Multimedia material
Video and other multimedia presentations are more effective than traditional printed patient education methods in increasing short-term retention of information. However, they should be used as a supplemental part of the patient education process. Even the most well-produced multimedia patient education material will not be effective if there is no window to discuss the content with the doctor.
- Since multimedia uses visuals and graphics, it helps overcome language barriers. The new clever touch screens are very user friendly, and allow even illiterate patients to assimilate information efficiently!
- A doctor may sometimes forget to provide some information about a condition/procedure during a consultation, but multimedia content is always consistent
- Multimedia material is a better choice than print when patients have low literacy levels.
- One major advantage of video is that it’s possible for the doctor to document that the patient was adequately educated and the consent which the patient gave for the treatment was truly a informed consent. This can help in risk management!
A major advantage of modern audiovisual media is that it is all produced in a digital format. This means that it can be delivered through a wide variety of channels and platforms, to a large number of devices, including TVs, PCs, and smartphones. This means that it’s possible to deliver the content inexpensively, no matter where the patient is – whether he is in a hospital bed or in a small village.
Author is the Co-founder and CEO of PEAS Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. You can connect with him @paragvr on twitter