Education has long been a priority in America. There are approximately 130,000 public and private K-12 schools in the United States along with about 4,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions.
Education does not, of course, only occur in schools. Healthcare providers have a responsibility to not only care for their patients but also ensure that they understand the information being offered to them.
The American Academy of Family Physicians defines patient education as the process of influencing patient behavior and producing the changes in knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to maintain or improve health. It takes the form of informing healthcare consumers about conditions and treatment and how to access primary and preventive services.
To make rational health choices, patients should use the educational process to procure a deep understanding of the impact healthy interventions can have on their present and long-term health. Not every patient has the same level of education or health literacy or speaks the same language, which is why providers must take social determinants of health (SDOH) into account when communicating with patients.
What happens when healthcare providers effectively educate patients? Those individuals understand their health conditions and choices and are actively engaged in their care. Patient education is especially important in chronic disease management, where it helps with self-management.
Research has found that the potential for improved health outcomes through patient education is immense. And, a study of 1,800 healthcare consumers found that individuals who read patient education material and communicate their understanding back to the doctor are 32 percent less likely to be hospitalized and 14 percent less likely to visit the emergency department.
Perks of Patient Education + Patient Engagement
Patient education does not require patient engagement, but the combination certainly is beneficial for patients. When healthcare consumers are more engaged in their care, it enables providers to distribute patient education more easily. The result is a more collaborative approach where patients have more input in their provider’s clinical decision-making.
Engagement of patients and patient-centeredness in medical education has been associated with better patient care, sustained treatment adherence, patient satisfaction and improved healthcare outcomes. To improve patient engagement, though, it is crucial for healthcare providers to understand patient education and give individuals information in a clear and accessible format. This, in turn, helps patients better understand:
- Who could access their health information
- What parts of their health information could be accessed or shared
- How their health information is protected
- Why their health information might be shared
- Which choices they have in terms of sharing or not sharing their health information
Provider Strategies for Expanding Patient Education
For healthcare providers who want to offer more patient education to promote patient engagement, there are numerous recommendations for doing so. Probably the most important is assessing patients to understand their level of health literacy. This way, a physician can better decide the best methods for interacting with them. For example, when communicating with a patient with low health literacy, a provider can incorporate shorter sentences without overly technical medical jargon, utilize visual aids or offer assistance with completing forms.
Additional strategies for providing effective patient education to boost patient engagement include:
- Determining the patient’s learning style
- Stimulating the patient’s interest
- Considering the patient’s limitations and strengths
- Including family members in health care management
- Taking advantage of educational technology
Employing educational technology should encompass digital health tools, which have the potential to increase patient satisfaction, improve medication adherence and help individuals track and monitor their health. Doing so can add value to the patient experience, with one report indicating that 64 percent of mobile adopters see patient education through apps and material delivery as a key driver of their adoption plans.
Equipping providers with digital health solutions also enables them to share health information with low-health literate patients because it addresses two of the five key primary domains of SDOH: access to healthcare and education. Not only do these digital tools make patient education more accessible, but they also allow for customization and personalization based on a specific patient or patient population.
When necessary, providers can add more such solutions to help patients comprehend the solutions or treatments offered. And, when patients are more knowledgeable about how to navigate their healthcare journey, they can utilize digital health tools that let them conduct healthcare tasks — on their own time using their own mobile devices.
For healthcare providers who might not believe that patients want educational materials from their providers, some data says otherwise. A 2023 study of 1,000 adult healthcare consumers found that 33 percent of patients are not offered educational materials by their provider to help answer their questions, even though roughly 95 percent stated they would likely access these materials if they were supplied. That number is concerning because 66 percent of patients have questions after a provider encounter, and 19% have new questions following their appointment.
If you are a healthcare provider ready to take your first step toward optimized patient engagement, schedule a demo with us today. We’ll help you guide your patients through their healthcare journey by enhancing your patient engagement goals with streamlined appointment setting and cancellations, contactless check-ins, electronic test results delivery and HIPAA-compliant, real-time two-way text messaging.