Clear and concise communication from doctors and nurses is crucial for patients to manage their healthcare effectively. Several studies have shown that patients may walk away experiencing confusion and anxiety because they do not understand a doctor’s use of technical terms. Cardiomyopathy literally means heart muscle disease, yet how many patients will understand this term? In today’s hectic healthcare environment, it is important to learn appropriate educational techniques and create patient-friendly educational materials.
The success of teaching a new mom how to bathe her newborn or instructing a patient living with a chronic condition is greatly impacted by the quality of a doctor or nurse’s guidance and support. In order to be effective, patient education needs to be more than just instructions and information. You need to be able to assess your patients’ needs and assist them in coping with their health challenges.
Understand who you want to reach
Before creating patient education brochures, videos, and other materials, it is important to pinpoint your target audience. Is your audience willing to read a brochure or watch a video? Patients are more likely to better respond to educational health materials that are targeted to their demographic. For example, the elderly are unlikely to use certain electronic applications. They may be more interested in reading brochures, whereas adolescents are more likely to watch videos that grab their interest. Moreover, take the time to consider how your patients will feel about the information they are given. Some may think photos are helpful, while others may find them insulting. Get feedback before, during, and after creating educational materials.
Take advantage of technology
Nowadays, technology has made patient educational materials more accessible. With the touch of a button, healthcare facilities have educational resources customized and ready to be printed. As a doctor, you should take advantage of these resources. Talk with your patients and ensure he or she understands the instructions given. Answer any questions they may have and be certain to address each patient’s particular needs.
Too much information is overwhelming
As a doctor, even you are aware that too much information can distract the reader from your target goal. If you put your text together in one big chunk, your patients may not want to look at it. In fact, several studies have found patients often forget much of what doctors and nurses tell them. Instead, consider writing down a website, forum, or phone number where your patients can get more information. In addition, provide patients with space to jot down notes or mark changes. Educational materials that actively engage and stimulate your patients’ interest are more effective at getting their message across.
Know your patient’s strengths and limitations
Some of your patients may have mental, physical, or emotional impairments, which can affect their ability to learn. For example, if your patient is hearing-impaired, consider using visual materials and hands-on methods to educate them. In any case, consider that, often, patients will nod “yes” even if they have not heard or understood what you said. For this reason, always use the teach-back method. It is a way to confirm you have explained the information to your patients in a way they understand.
Consider that each patient’s learning style is different
Healthcare information can be provided through a wide range of techniques. In fact, it has been determined that providing information by using different modalities emphasizes teaching. All your patients have different learning styles. Your job is to determine whether your patient learns best by reading or watching an educational video. A large percentage of the adult population in the United States has difficulty reading and interpreting numbers and charts. Sometimes, a hands-on approach is the best way for your patient to absorb and utilize the instructions given.
Involve family members while educating your patients
Involving family members in patient teaching gives you the opportunity to improve the chances your instructions will be put to use. Essentially, it will be the family to whom you will be providing most of the instructions. After all, family plays a vital role in healthcare management, as they help patients manage and cope with illnesses. For example, family members of geriatric patients who do not eat well should be informed of the importance of the social aspects of eating. Studies have determined two aspects have direct effects on how much food an individual consumes: who they eat with and the environment in which they are surrounded. Teaching patients and their families is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of being a doctor. Always remember that excellent instruction improves patient outcomes significantly.
Take time to establish rapport
This is by far the most important step in educating your patients. Get to know your patients and explain your role in their care. Talk to them about their worries and fears. Ask them about their outlooks and attitudes towards certain treatments. Most importantly, let your patients know what you are doing. Saying, “Now I am checking your lungs,” will help the patient feel more at ease as opposed to being silent and having them worry something is wrong. All of these steps can help you gain a patient’s trust, and their answers will help you learn the individual’s core beliefs. In turn, you can plan the best ways to teach, and your patient education efforts will be far more effective.
Patient education allows patients to play a bigger role in their own care. As a doctor, if you don’t explain instructions properly the first time, patients will call back and this will take an even larger amount of time away from your already busy schedule. The overall success of patient education largely depends on how well you assess your patient’s needs, concerns, preferences, readiness to learn, support, and limitations (such as physical and mental capacity). At the heart of good healthcare are patients who know how to care for themselves well.