Patient education is sharing medical information with patients aptly and making them aware of their health condition. Patient education has always been considered as an important part of patient care giving.
Imparting specific medical information to the patients ensures patient satisfaction and makes them an integral part of their healthcare decision making. It helps to educate the patients about their illnesses and the ways to deal with them. Patient education plays a vital role in development of an effective health system.
Challenges in Patient Education
Healthcare professionals, along with medical care, try to involve in patient education as and when appropriate. However, there are some challenges, which can be potential barriers in patient education. Understanding and evaluating these issues can help in laying out a solution plan to execute effective patient education programs.
When healthcare professionals plan their patient education strategies, it is important to consider basic factors that influence their healthcare decisions and their ability to learn.
Children may need parental support to make them understand certain things. Teens may have to be dealt with more patience and in a way they comprehend. Similarly, elderly adults may at times be rigid about their own practices and may find it difficult to implement medical instructions.
Preparing patient education material that is user-friendly, easy to understand and eye-catching can prove beneficial. Targeting specific groups in their schools, organizations, communities can promote better understanding through peer groups and controlled guidance as the concerns are similar.
Level of Education
Many patients are unable to read, write or use of modern technologies and most of them are way away from medical terms. In such cases, personal counselling and open discussions with the help of illustrations may be helpful. They need to be explained medical details in simple terms and preferably in their local language.
More educated people may demand for more explanation and have to be dealt accordingly. Sophisticated forms of patient education like online or print magazines, presentations and workshops can be delivered to such people.
Customs and Beliefs
Patients have different origin and varied cultural values, some of which may not be in favour of patient education. It may also influence the number of patients seeking medical support, those opting for immunization, pregnancy, child care and similar areas. Understanding basic patient beliefs, respecting their values and working on those lines is essential.
Doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals are often busy with core clinical work and find less time for patient education. Developing patient education programs involve additional expenses and finances should also be properly planned. Available resources should be used efficiently with minimal wastage.
It is important to appreciate the fact that by devoting some time in patient education for health awareness, unnecessary wastage of time, money and resources can be avoided. When patients are well aware and educated, they can be more compliant, co-operative and satisfied at the same time.
Most of the barriers in patient education can be overcome, by spending time with patients and resolving their queries. Once patient are in touch with healthcare professionals, they should make every attempt to explain to their patients, provide them the right information and treat them with compassion to ensure better patient satisfaction. This in turn can act as chain reaction, provoke more patients to get in touch with healthcare professionals and ultimately help to educate the patient community.
What can be done?
The most important step is to choose the right mode of patient education based on the possible challenges. Some more ways to tackle these issues include
- Patient education campaigns should be planned keeping in view the target audience, the place where the material would be published or events would be conducted and the type of people who would be involved.
- Whether, print, imagery, videos or verbal, the material and content should be clear, concise and easy for laymen to understand.
- Wherever language is used, it should be acceptable, simple and should convey the message in a single meaning. Translation in regional languages may be required.
Healthcare professionals too need to undergo continuous medical education and update their medical knowledge to be able to handle patient queries efficiently. Regular training programs for doctors and nurses can help in keeping everyone abreast with the latest medical news and trends. This knowledge and additional reading can be effectively used for patient education purposes in any manner found appropriate for the situation; for example medical lectures, patient workshops, medical events, health camps, etc.
It is very important to understand that patient education is for the patient. Hence, it needs to be delivered in the way patients understand and not the way medical professionals perceive. Once this is understood, healthcare professionals can work efficiently and collectively towards developing better means of patient education and dedicate some time for the same.