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How to Select the Most Effective Health Education Materials for Your Patient

Written by Blaise O’Malley, MPH

Health education is an important part of the patient experience, as it allows patients to better understand their condition and make informed decisions about their treatment. There are many resources that exist to help educate patients effectively, but at times it can feel like there are too many to choose from. You don’t want to send your patient home with so many resources that they don’t know where to start – this can be overwhelming and may prompt them to not look at any at all – but you also don’t want to send them with too few, as this can leave them feeling like they are lacking key information about their health.

So, how do you choose the right number of resources for your patient? And how do you know that the ones you choose will be effective?

How do I know which resources to select?

The first step is to see what resources are available to you. This will show you what you’re able to offer your patient. The IMD Health Patient Engagement platform is a great place to start with patient-friendly resources covering over 6,000 medical topics. Here you can explore content from reputable Health organizations; for example, if you are preparing to see a patient with gastrointestinal issues, you may want to look at resources from the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, AEProbio, and/or Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. Ensure that you carefully review all the resources that you plan to use before introducing your patient to them.

Next, speak to your patient about educational resources to get a sense of what they would find to be most useful. Do they think reading about the condition would be best, or would they absorb information more effectively if it was presented to them in a video? Would they like to learn as much detail as possible, or do long booklets overwhelm them and make them less interested in the material? What is their limit regarding the number of resources they want to receive? Also remember to think about literacy level and any cultural considerations. IMD offers media-rich and health equity-focused resources in various formats including videos, digital brochures, diagrams and more to support your conversations.

With their preferences in mind, start to gather relevant resources. If possible, organize them so that they can all be sent in one email (to do this quickly and effectively, start a patient session on IMD). If the patient does not have an email, try to print resources ahead of time and staple or paper clip them together.

What information should the resources include?

Although it will be patient and condition dependent, you should generally include information about what the condition is, what your patient needs to do (and why), any specific signs or symptoms the patient should pay careful attention to, any required procedures, what your patient should do if a problem occurs, and who they should contact if they have questions or concerns.

What else should I do?

It’s important to ensure that your patient knows how to properly access the materials and can do so easily. If you are emailing resources to the patient, make sure that they have Internet access and know how to get to their email inbox.

It is also important to know that sending your patients away with educational resources is only part of an effective patient education experience. You cannot guarantee that a patient will review all the materials that you send to them, so make sure to go over important information, educate them during their appointments, and if possible, loop in a caregiver or loved one that can remind them to look over the resources.