As healthcare technologies grow and patient education tools become widely available, a question arises: How can we get patients excited about learning? Specifically, how can we get patients to want to learn about their own health and take a more active role in managing their own care, now that we have advanced tools to facilitate the education process?
Most patients are accustomed to receiving the majority of information about their health directly from the mouths of their healthcare providers. And that’s just fine, if the patient happens to be an astute note-taker with a decidedly auditory learning style. However, most people don’t meet these criteria. Many are visual learners, and being spoken at by their healthcare provider is tantamount to pouring water through a sieve. For these people, simply being told something is not enough for them to retain the information. Low health literacy also affects patients’ willingness and ability to learn. Most people do not have the knowledge needed to understand basic health information, which affects their ability to make informed healthcare decisions.
So what can you as healthcare professionals do to help your patients become more interested in learning about their health?
Speak Their Language
This is an easy one in theory, but too often the fast pace of the doctor’s office means that patients are bombarded with medical terms and scientific jargon that they simply cannot understand. It’s important to remember, even though it may seem obvious in passing, that patients do not have the same comprehensive medical training and backgrounds as their healthcare providers. While it may seem perfectly natural to you to explain to a patient that they are suffering from a mild case of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, chances are good that this mouthful will elicit a blank stare of incomprehension or a look of frightened concern. Strive to describe medical concepts in layman’s terms; meet patients on their level by using language that the average person can understand. If a patient can comprehend a diagnosis and feel comfortable talking to their healthcare provider about it, they are much more likely to actively seek out opportunities to learn and become invested in their own medical care.
Embrace the Web
These days people conduct much of their lives online. When it comes to healthcare this isn’t always a good thing. Medical information abounds on the internet, much of it false or generated by unreliable sources. But this doesn’t stop patients from attempting self-diagnosis when a quick internet search is constantly available at their fingertips.
Take advantage of patients’ willingness to use the internet to seek out information by incorporating it into your educational arsenal. Point patients in the direction of sites that offer sound advice, such as the Mayo Clinic or Heart and Stroke Foundation. Include links to credible sources on your own website, or have a printed list of URLs available to provide to patients during consultation. By supporting and encouraging the ways in which patients want to learn, we can help them to continue to educate themselves smartly.
Too often in the exam room, healthcare practitioners find themselves talking at their patients, rather than engaging them in meaningful communication. This can be frustrating when you are trying to explain serious health conditions in a time-sensitive environment. Long-winded explanations often do not register with patients, who may have low health literacy or a preference for visual learning approaches.
Advances in healthcare technology mean that healthcare providers can now make use of smart tech to educate their patients in a more meaningful and easy to understand way. iMD Health offers a patient education platform that centres on using visual aids during consultation to ease the process of patient education. The free app leverages visuals including graphics and video to make complex topics easy to understand by presenting information in a more approachable way. Plus, you’ll have the option to provide patients with materials to review at home after their visit, thereby giving patients more time to absorb and understand the information.
When it comes to patient education, meet them on their level: speak their language, work with their preferred learning style, and make health information readily available and easy to understand. Help build your patients’ confidence in their own ability to understand medical information and actively seek out opportunities to further their learning. To learn more about how iMD Health’s digital education technology can improve your practice, please visit our website.