Patient education a monster, monster problem? Here’s the solution

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An online article described patient education as a monster, monster problem because patients don’t understand their doctors, which leads to preventable health care expenses.

Here’s what the article said:

“Patient education is a monster, monster problem,” said Matt Berry, Orca Health’s founder and CEO.

According to company statistics, more than half of all visits to a doctor’s office don’t result in optimal care because the patient doesn’t understand what the doctor is saying. This problem, called “low health literacy,” costs the nation as much as $238 billion a year, with $73 billion attributed to hospital stays caused by a patient not understanding or adhering to a doctor’s instructions.

OK, I agree.

Then the article proposed provider-prescribed apps as a solution to this monster problem.


I love apps. But really. This is an example of a solution looking for a problem.

The problem is that patients don’t understand their doctors. There’s a simple, effective, low-tech solution to this, based on evidence:

Ask the patient to teach back to you his or her understanding of what you just said. If the patient did not understand, explain it a different way, until the patient can understand it.

This is immediately available for use by all health care providers.

You want more than that? Encourage patients to take notes or record the conversation so they don’t have to memorize everything.

Monster, monster problem solved!

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Using apps to enhance patient and family education

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There are lots of medical apps available for smart phones and tablets, many of which are free or inexpensive. But how do you incorporate them into clinical practice?

The good news is you don’t have to invest in fancy equipment. If you’re asking about apps, you probably own a smart phone or tablet. Your patients who will benefit most from apps own the technology already, too. So the most efficient and effective way to start is to use the technology you have, and have learners use what they have.

Next step is to find the most appropriate resources. Do not start from “what apps are available?” That would not be patient-centered. Instead, ask: What conditions do my patients have? What do I teach about? What do my patients and their families need to learn? What questions do they have? What behaviors do they need help changing to optimize health?

There are 3 places apps might be used:
1. In the clinical encounter, as you explain something.
2. During a hospitalization, to engage the patient and family in the educational process.
3. At home, to provide information and support healthy behavior changes.

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8 Tips For a Successful Relationship With Your Doctor

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After two business trips that took me to Palo Alto, CA and Dallas, TX with only a week at home in between, I knew that the cold I’d had for six weeks had somehow made its way into my ears. The plane flights had shoved pressure into tender ear canals and sinuses, causing pain and congestion in both.

After trying allergy medications and decongestants for six weeks, I knuckled under and saw a doctor. I hadn’t felt good for a while and it wasn’t just the ear and sinus pain but a deep down fatigue and intermittent low fever.

Seated in an exam room, noticing the smell only well-traveled doctor’s offices have, I greeted the doctor I’d known for years. Sometimes he was moody but mostly pleasant and affable. After discussing my symptoms, Dr. Y asked about my latest book, The Take-Charge Patient. We chatted about healthcare reform and its implications for physicians.

After an exam of my ears, nose and throat, Dr. Y. said he didn’t see evidence of infection and launched into a regimen of allergy medications and seven days of steroids. He explained that inflammation and allergies were the cause of my symptoms.

“The fever too?” I explained that I’d not been feeling well for a while and had been taking allergy medications and decongestants with no success. I repeated my symptoms, adding in a few more for the sake of emphasis, because after all, I wouldn’t have been in his office if I hadn’t wanted a prescription for a-n-t-i-b-i-o-t-i-c-s, the dreaded request for many doctors.

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2013: A Remarkable Year for #mHealth Apps

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From record venture capital funding, to unprecedented scientific research behind their creation, mHealth applications finally turned the corner in 2013 as they emphatically entered the mainstream for mobile device users around the world.

According to the recently published findings of Manhattan Research‘sCybercitizen Health U.S. 2013 Study, 95 million Americans now count on their mobile devices to access health information and services. In fact, the number of Americans using mHealth resources is up 27 percent from just one year ago.

In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans to begin regulating a small segment of the expanding universe of mobile health applications that, in light of their growing scientific grounding, are making bigger and bolder claims about what they can achieve for our general health and wellness.

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Digital Doctor Vs. Social Doctor

Video Has Power for Pharma – When It’s Done Right | The Patient Experience Project

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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.



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