What is patient education, and why is it important
Date: January 10th, 2022
It's not on one or two occasions that you'll hear healthcare providers complain of patients not taking their medications. And it’s even worst amongst patients with chronic conditions. But the question every health professionals ask is, why would patients fail to take their medications?
The non-adherence to doctors' recommendations happens for different reasons. Amongst them include fear of the potential side effects and the cost of refilling their medications. Another severe reason could be misunderstanding which occurs when the patient does not understand certain drugs. Or mistrust where patients get suspicious of their care provider's motive of giving them specific prescriptions.
One primary cause of all the reasons for patients' non-adherence is lack of information or inadequate knowledge. Sure, proper diagnosis or treatments are essential, but if the patients are not informed about their conditions or reasons for certain medications. In that case, there are high chances of non-adherence and misunderstanding, which would significantly affect the treatment outcome.
This article discusses the benefits of proper patient education in improving patients’ experiences. Let’s dive in!
Understanding patient education
The healthcare sector is making significant efforts to become patient-centric, especially by adopting different health technological trends. However, to ensure a better patient experience, healthcare providers should conduct adequate patient education.
By definition, patient education is the process of teaching and engaging patients to positively influence their behaviors, attitudes, skills, and knowledge to help maintain or improve health standards.
The ultimate goal of providing education is to empower or inspire patients to make informed medical and care decisions about their health to improve health outcomes. Education should, however, be the responsibility of all healthcare professionals, which some health workers find hard to do.
What factors must you consider while conducting patient education?
To provide the best education, healthcare providers need to master various skills. You must, therefore:
- Ascertain the patients’ education level and needs
- Identify barriers to learning
- Incorporating various learning materials for greater understanding
Ascertaining patients’ educational needs
Every professional trainer must know that all learners are different, and they learn and understand concepts at a different rate. The same applies to patients; well-educated patients could grasp ideas faster while others would need you to repeat the same idea repeatedly.
So, to ensure an engaging and productive education that would help improve patients’ health. You have to provide teachings that relate to a patient's level of education, their readiness to absorb various concepts, and ensure the experience accommodates their experience and cultural understandings.
Also, create a conducive learning environment. It would be very unwise to be judgmental in our training. Worst is, patients would not concentrate much if they realize you don't respect them. So, to ensure a productive education, provide an environment where patients feel valued, respected, accepted, and most importantly, trusted.
Involve your patients throughout the learning. Any disengaged patient won’t concentrate on the training. Therefore, it's the responsibility of the healthcare trainer to ensure that every patient is engaged all through the sessions and encourage them to evaluate their own progress.
You should also ensure you provide and present materials relevant to your patients’ needs. Sure, there are times when patients want to learn more about various health concepts. However, there come times when they only need to know about their conditions and nothing much. Therefore, you must ensure you give them materials or resources related to their needs.
To improve patients’ experience, allow them to demonstrate their understanding of various skills and information provided. Ask them questions concerning the topic discussed, and if there is training that requires some practice, ensure you give them sample assignments to show their skills. This would help evaluate patients' learning curves providing an effective way of monitoring their progress.
Identifying barriers to learning
Several activities and situations can prevent patients from getting the proper education. For instance, if patients are worried about their financial status and how they would be paying their bills, the chances are high that they would concentrate on what you're showing them.
Due to the fear of stigmatization, some patients would not want to be seen taking some training within certain physical environment and condition. Also, some patients, like the cold intolerant individuals, would not feel well in icy areas. So, choose a conducive environment that favors your patient’s concerns.
Financial considerations. As much as insurance covers are currently accepted in many healthcare centers, some expensive diseases and medical conditions would demand more cash. In such cases, the patients would focus on how they would get the money required for the treatment drugs.
Worst is, some patients can even miss taking some drugs, so they don't finish their medications before they get money to refill prescriptions. So, every health professional should make their patients calm and not worry about the treatment funds but focus on taking medicines.
Cultural/ethnic or language barriers. There are times when health specialists would be sent to handle patient training in different regions. One major challenge they may face is language barriers, making it hard to deliver the training. That said, before deciding to train patients, research to know more about the language they would best understand.
Other barriers include:
- Lack of motivation and support system
- Misconceptions about patients’ conditions and treatment methods
- Literacy or inadequate comprehension skills.
Incorporate various learning materials
Not all patients are suitable for reading and comprehending long texts. Some would analyze an image or map better than listening or watching to streamed health topics.
So, it would help to provide health training in different forms from audio, text, videos, and images or diagrams. You can also offer all at the same time to enhance their understanding.
For several reasons, most healthcare providers have failed to provide effective patient education. Let’s take a look at some.
Patient Education Mistakes You May Be Making
You’re going to fail to provide the best education if:
You education materials focus on the wrong conditions
You may be offering the most quality display, but if your content is off the patients' need, the chances are high that most of them would be snoring and hearing less. So, consider your patient population, dwell on the most common topics, and condition your training protects or treats.
Assuming you know what patients’ needs
Sure, it can be hard to know exactly what your patients want unless you involve or ask them. For instance, you may have a group of pregnant patients, but you may assume all they need is to have to know how to handle pregnancy. However, some would also love to know about post-pregnancy care.
So to ensure that all your patients at least get to learn something, you can circulate a question paper and have them write everything they would like to know by the end of the session. Better still, ask them directly what they think and feel should be handed or what areas they find most challenging.
Assuming Patients Understands or Recalls Everything You Told Them
Some medical terms might be standard, but not to all the patients. So, never assume that everything you say is well taken and understood by the patients. Therefore, please encourage them to ask questions they feel they haven't understood. Plus, try as much as possible to provide full details of what you’re covering.
Considering the above three points would be vital to improving patients’ experiences. So what are some of the advantages of effective patient education?
Benefits of effective patient education
It Helps Improve Health Outcomes
In the context of escalating conditions that might worsen future patients' health, there is a high potential of improving the outcome results. How? Through patient training, doctors can ensure their patients develop or create some self-management programs that can help prevent or minimize the risk of further exposure.
Let's take the example of sex education. When done well, patients would get to know some of the factors that would increase the chances of STD infections. Also, they'll identify some of the treatment options for various bacterial and viral sexual diseases. Knowing what to do and what to avoid, patients would improve their treatment experience hence improving the health outcome.
Improve self-care services or self-efficacy
Self-efficacy is the ability to succeed in certain conditions or accomplish certain tasks given. A patient's sense of self-efficacy would play a significant role in handling and approaching their different health goals and responsibilities.
With proper education, patients of different conditions can complete their other challenges regarding their health, knowing very well what they have to do for better experiences.
It Helps Keep Patient Data
The significance of patient educations goes beyond just providing knowledge about conditions and medical treatments. But it also helps patients understand how to navigate various medical devices that improve the treatment experience. Therefore, with practical training, patients can navigate through the digital healthcare systems to maintain or update their data.
Also, the different health records systems would help patients access their information at their convenient points, thus giving them the power to take more control of their health and well-being.
Health professionals need to train their patients on various health matters to help improve their understanding of multiple treatment options and adherence to recommendations. Most importantly, to improve their healthcare experiences.