With the many complexities involved in delivering quality healthcare in today’s environment, improving the patient’s ability to become educated about his or her condition and required medications is essential. Thorough patient education of this kind is especially helpful for patients fighting obesity. Consider these three strategies for improving patient education and comprehension.

Provide useful supplemental materials.

Some patients may find it difficult to comprehend certain information depending on how complex the disease, condition, or medication is. In such cases, providing supplemental learning materials that are concise yet informative is paramount. Consider providing a checklist or summary to accompany longer handouts. Additionally, many patient looks for further information on their conditions and medications online, so steer them in the right direction by offering a list of scientific, trustworthy, and reputable websites that a patient or family member can peruse for information at their convenience. Many health associations have sections on their websites dedicated to educating the public, and they feature short videos, diagrams and other visual aids that can greatly enhance comprehension versus simply reading pamphlets or printouts. Visual aids such as patient education videos are another popular and consistent strategy for offering patient education, and some patient education systems integrate with EMR systems to make sharing information with a patient as easy as possible.

Be thorough.

The patient encounter in the office is typically brief—in fact, most patients get only 9 to 25 minutes of a doctor’s time—and most of that time is dedicated to the physical examination. Maximize the minutes of the visit by listening to understand the patient’s situation and questions. Provide thorough answers in order to reduce confusion or misunderstanding on their part and potentially prevent a follow-up visit in the future. Many patients think of additional questions after receiving an answer for a separate question, so allowing time for the patient to digest each answer before moving on is beneficial. Asking the patient to repeat back certain information can also be helpful. For example, asking the patient when they’ll be taking their medication and how often. As an extra precaution, it may be necessary to follow up visits with a phone call or an email to check in on each patient and their status after the visit. Try using documentation support in order to cut down on time spent with documentation so that you can get more time face-to-face with patients.

Encourage and empower the patient.

If a condition, diagnosis, or medication is new to a patient, emphasize the importance of education and encourage the patient to learn. Knowledge is empowering, and if a particular diagnosis is difficult to handle, the patient will need all the empowerment they can get. Emphasize the power of knowledge in the process of choosing care, in recovery, and as a coping mechanism. Communicate the importance of self-education to each patient. This can be one of the most simple and inexpensive ways to improve patient experience.

Improving patient education and comprehension can be an undertaking for physicians because of the many complexities involved in healthcare delivery today. However, physicians can improve the patient experience as well as patient education by doing these three things: provide useful supplemental materials, be thorough and encourage the patient. Simply enhancing communications with the patient during face-to-face encounters can ultimately improve the patient’s experience and reduce future complications for medical professionals.

Resources:

Increasing Care Comprehension | Sonifi Health Patient Education

Amount of time U.S. primary care physicians spent with each patient as of 2018 |Statista

Doctors spend 27% of the workday with patients, study finds | Advisory Board

Why Empowering Patients is Important for Health Providers | Continuous Care for Health

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