Not only is October Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it’s also Health Literacy Month, a recognition designed for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information.
In today's society, everything is turning digital—including in the healthcare industry. While digital experiences are certainly critical for engaging savvy healthcare consumers, printed educational materials are also still very much an important part of the care continuum. In fact, more than half of patients say that printed educational material about diseases or the medications they’ve been prescribed are more useful than other tools available to them.¹ A similar number of providers indicate, too, that they rely primarily on print collateral when talking to patients.²
The problem? Despite the form it’s presented in, healthcare practices and hospitals are faced with a great challenge to ensure that patients fully comprehend medical conditions, treatment plans, and what they’re expected to do once they leave the doctor’s office or are discharged from the hospital. More than $73 billion is spent each year on unnecessary healthcare expenses because patients don’t fully understand what their medical providers say to them.
In addition, patients face a number of barriers when trying follow medical guidance, as many are confused by medical jargon, or simply overwhelmed by the quantity of information they may find from a variety of sources.
All things considered, this is one of the main reasons why print materials are vital. As such, we recommend all healthcare practices and hospitals consider the following when developing a patient education program:
- Don’t re-create the wheel: Leverage existing resources your organization has to provide customized education that meets each individual patient’s needs.
- Use technology where appropriate: Every patient has a different learning style, so you may require educational content in a variety of formats to ensure comprehension. Some patients may be more tech savvy—such as your Millennial patients—and may prefer to read information online or from a patient portal, while others lack internet access or may be uncomfortable using a computer. Ask your patients how they like to receive information and be prepared to meet each patients’ unique individual needs. It’s also important to consider the primary language of your patient base, as it may be critical to provide educational content in other languages.
- Review materials with patients and family members: Sometimes just a few more minutes can make the difference. Carve out extra time to talk through the educational materials you’re providing, and use common language that patients will understand.
At the end of the day, education is the key to ensuring patients understand what they need to do to address chronic conditions, recover from injury or surgery, or improve their overall health. This Health Literacy Month, we encourage you to explore new methods of patient education, as the best programs will be flexible enough to support the latest and greatest technology has to offer, while also being able to deliver content in the format that works best for each patient.