According to a 2014 study conducted at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, patient education for diabetes patients improved health outcomes significantly by empowering them with tools for improved self-care and compliance. A higher level of patient education has been shown to reduce unnecessary admissions, follow-up phone calls or visits, and time spent in the physician’s office tends to enhance patients’ relationships with their providers.
Recent health reform guidelines and efforts, along with great strides in interactive technology, such as the Medicom Health Risk Assessments, are allowing hospitals and clinics to provide better, more customized information to their patients and their families. In blending health reform with available technology, interactive patient-care tools can meet evolving compliance and patient satisfaction requirements, allowing hospitals and clinics to provide a much higher level of care along with better, faster return on investments based on new Federal mandates and reimbursement strategies for Medicare and Medicaid services.
Improving outcome and empowering patients should be on every hospital’s to-do list in the new year. But even if your hospital has made efforts to improve, or create, a patient education program, are patients engaged enough to benefit and see markedly improved outcomes? According to the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership, nearly half of U.S. adults – 90 million people – can’t understand and use the information shared by their doctor, clinic, or hospital. Low health literacy, defined as the capacity to seek, understand, and act on health information, is one of the main challenges to engaging patients in education programs offered by hospitals and clinics.
Immigrant populations, the elderly, as well as those affected by poverty or low education, can face many health challenges, among them a lower level of health literacy. Some of the problems faced by people with low to moderate healthcare literacy include higher medical costs, higher frequency of hospitalization and re-admittance due to low compliance or understanding of drug interactions, utilization of the healthcare system further down the path of illness, and a lack of understanding and skills needed for prevention. Many long and short term studies have shown a higher rate of hospitalization and use of emergency services among patients with limited health literacy skills, resulting in higher health care costs.
While building an intuitive patient education program is important to both the patients and the healthcare provider network, educating providers on the challenges faced by some of their patients is also important. Healthcare professionals should be able to evaluate the literacy levels of patients and be able to tweak their messages so that patients with lower level of health literacy can better understand and utilize the information provided. A providers’ ability to be adaptable can reduce a patient’s anxiety, shame, confusion, and build trust and loyalty. Patient education can decrease the number of unnecessary admissions, phone calls, or visits, which will save time and money for both the patient and the provider.
Sophisticated, interactive tools and resources help educate patients to make informed decisions, increase compliance and improve outcomes. Further, healthcare providers benefit by saving time and money, promoting their practice, and building relationships and loyalty.