A large television unit over the bed, a tablet on the patient’s bedside and mobile phone in hand. While prima facie these might appear as entertainment tools, they also act as catalysts for boosting patient education via technology.
The evolution of tech over the past few decades has transformed the way people learn and consume knowledge.
The healthcare industry has undergone a massive overhaul and is currently witnessing exponential growth in the use of technology in all aspects of healthcare delivery. Patient education is one important arena where it has found its application.
The Value of Patient Education in Healthcare Delivery
Research shows that patients who are involved in their health decisions are more likely to cooperate and understand their disease process (Hibbard & Greene, 2013)
Patient education aims at increasing comprehension and participation in self-management of healthcare needs. Patient with knowledge and awareness become dynamic participants in their own treatment, resulting in greater levels of patient satisfaction and improved clinical outcomes with a lesser duration of stay.
Patient education encourages the patients to become active participants in their own health by developing an in-depth understanding of their care plans, increased adherence, and improved efficiency through facilitating patient-clinician discussions.
The Changing Landscape of Patient Education Technology
Technology has sped up information availability and its consumption in modern times. Healthcare has come a long way from the time when patients solely relied on healthcare providers when seeking relevant information.
In the present time, both patients, as well as their caregivers, are increasingly relying on Doctor Google (and Siri/Alexa) to get their healthcare-related queries resolved. Medical practitioners are no longer the only source of information that patients could rely on.
According to Pew Research, 80 percent of Internet users have searched for a health-related topic online, either for themselves or for someone they know.
While there are some sources, both websites and apps that offer reliable information, a majority of healthcare information around the web is unverified.
Making use of technology to bridge the gap between the patients and healthcare providers and providing them with relevant and reliable information through patient education is of paramount importance to ensure quality healthcare delivery and improved patient outcomes.
5 Patient Education Technology Facilitations
1. Custom-developed patient education apps
Hospitals and healthcare organizations are no strangers to mobile apps. Mayo clinic Minnesota started with custom mobile and iPad app development dating back to 2009.
Till date, they remain the leading hospital in the field of app development with custom developed apps aimed at medication, blood transfusion education, symptom reference guides and educative apps for specific diseases as well.
This ensures that the patients get their information from reliable sources and become more engaged in their own health leading to better outcomes.
Aetna, a US-based managed healthcare company has a custom-developed patient-facing app which facilitates patients to find information on their specific health conditions and gives them step-by-step guidance to treat them effectively.
The app called ITriage also gives them information whether their condition necessitates a visit to the ER, provides navigation to the healthcare provider along with a map of facilities included in the health insurance network.
The app is also a place for them to store their health information securely and review the claims history. The patient thus becomes more informed and is in a better position to make clinical decisions regarding his health.
When developing a healthcare application, use of tech tools such as AI algorithms, chatbots and voice assistants for patient education has the potential to free up physician time and improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery.
Northeastern University started working on a virtual nurse “Louise” that provided patients with interactive discussions about home care prior to discharge based on the health records way back in 2008.
Interestingly, 74 percent of the patients preferred “Louise” a source of medical information over their doctor. Voice-controlled technology such as can soon come into play for maintaining patient documentation and answering their queries
Mobile apps undoubtedly provide a fantastic opportunity to conveniently provide relevant information to the patient.
While developing HIPAA compliant healthcare apps and following the prescribed norms, the patient data can be collected via apps and other connected devices under the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT).
Up on the application of Big Data analytics and Machine Learning algorithms upon this data, healthcare organizations have the power to customize learning for individual patients and create custom patient education experiences.
2. Video-based learning via mobile apps and tablets
Use of mobile phones and tablets makes learning interactive and mobile. Use of videos, diagrams and animations on these devices increases the patient’s comprehension about their ailments and allows for the learning to take place at a pace that best suits them.
In a research paper by Wang, Hsu and Bhatia the advantages of iPad use was studied for patient education in cosmetic consultations.
Having easy access to videos and illustrations via iPad apps played a vital role in aiding conversations between patients and consultants. The clinicians used iPads to show the before and after pictures of cosmetic procedures.
This helped the patients undergoing the surgeries better envision how the post-surgical outcomes would likely look like.
Custom developed mobile and tablet apps can help facilitate patient learning via videos, animations and illustrations specific to the patient.
Use of technology such as Augmented and virtual reality is also effective in patient education. AR/VR can project the information in the digital environment making it easier for better understanding complex healthcare-related phenomenons.
In 2012, a major pharmaceutical company launched 3D simulation for diabetic patients showing the impact of mild hypoglycemia on a patient with type 2 diabetes.
It turned out to be an effective tool that allowed the patients to take timely action to address lowering of blood sugar levels. Till date, the application has been translated in nine languages and is being used in 26 countries worldwide.
3. Nursing intervention for patient education
Custom-developed application for patient education that leverages the power of nursing intervention is an effective method of patient education being currently used by healthcare organizations. Teaching sessions are set up with the nursing attendants.
Using the tech tools, the patient is informed about their illness, the treatment protocol being followed, the doctors assigned to their case and the tests that would be required during the course of diagnosis and treatment plan.
The nurses then schedule sessions with the patient and make use of the teach-back method. They evaluate and access the amount of information understood and retained by the patient from their interactive sessions.
The results of these evaluations can help customize the patient education programs to the levels where it becomes easily comprehensible by the patient.
With the primary information being delivered via the app, the nurses and clinicians can focus on high-level patient education notes.
In a study by the Beryl Institute, the use of interactive technology to communicate with patients was found to significantly increase patient satisfaction level.
When patient information delivery by nursing support was reinforced by technology, the patient satisfaction scores went up by 10 percent while the satisfaction with the hospital’s educational materials increased by as much as 42 percent.
4. Patient portals for education via telemedicine
The healthcare delivery pattern is rapidly shifting from an outcome-based model where the delivery of care ends once the patient is discharged to a value-based one.
Decentralization of healthcare delivery has resulted in shifting of focus from cure to ongoing care and telemedicine plays an important role in achieving that.
Hospitals are implementing tech solutions to meet the demands of patient-centric healthcare. Kaiser Permanente Panorama City hospital implemented an interactive patient education system that focused on telehealth that educates and engages patients before, during and after they avail the healthcare services.
KPPC’s custom-developed remote patient education solution regularly schedules programs, patient specific education plans, comprehension testing and feedback generation. The patients can select and access the educational material at their own convenience.
Whether the information is patient-specific, hospital-related or about post-care through the recovery continuum, patients and their caregivers can remotely access them through the patient telehealth portals.
With timely prevention and treatment information made available remotely, the hospital readmission rates went down with improvement in both, patient satisfaction as well as overall hospital satisfaction
5. Visualization through 3D printing technology
A popular medical saying goes, “Eyes don’t see what mind doesn’t know.” While this rings true, it’s also a fact that visualization significantly boosts comprehension.
Visualization of the ailments via 3D Printing has the potential to let the patients have a better overview of their conditions leading them to make better-informed decisions concerning their treatment plans.
The advent of 3D printing technology is rapidly expanding not just in surgical preparations but in medical education as well.
A study in the Journal of International Medical Research on the effect of 3D printing technology on patient education showed a significantly improved understanding and comprehension about the condition.
The parents of children suffering from hepatic tumors scheduled for hepatectomy were presented with patient-specific 3D liver models.
The questionnaire responses showed significant improvement when 3D models were used for patient education as compared to merely CT scans or MRIs.
Parental understanding of liver anatomy, physiology, tumor characteristics, surgical planning and risks all improved after receiving patient education via 3D printing technology.
Implementing technology for patient education
Technology has given healthcare organizations an opportunity to digitize patient interaction- a space that had been long dominated by analog tools such as posters, pamphlets and models. Patient education not only improves the healthcare outcomes but it also boosts the patient engagement which in turn affects the patient experience as well satisfaction.
While the perks of implementing technology in healthcare are multi-fold, there are several pitfalls you should look to avoid as well. Patient data is sensitive in nature and subject to compliance and regulatory norms like HIPAA and HITECH act.
Hiring a healthcare software development company that is well versed with regulatory compliance and is experienced in creating innovative solutions makes the path to ensuring patient education and engagement easier to tread on.