Individual providers, health systems, government agencies and anyone interested in reducing the cost of care and improving patients’ health outcomes can leverage quality patient education. But just having access to quality content isn’t enough. Hospitals and care providers must put a strategy of engagement in place in order for the culture of education to take hold and drive impact.

We’ve seen a rise in the role of patient education within healthcare all the way from meaningful use, to reduced readmissions strategies. Knowledge is power, but knowledge must be shared and brought to light in order for that power to be effective. Today’s digital environment gives us a broad variety of access points and interactive platforms to leverage patient education. EMRs, patient portals, mHealth solutions, web resources and waiting room digital signage all have a role to play in reaching a patient with teachable health content. But what happens if no one turns it on or tunes in?

User Adoption is the second largest obstacle to overcome in meaningful use success (www.klasresearch.com/news/pressroom/2012/MUconsultants). User adoption isn’t unique to health care resources; it’s universal to any new technology or procedure and has more to do with behavior change and mindset than anything else. When it comes to patient education, the same obstacles exist whether you’re using a website to deliver content or a sophisticated patient engagement platform or something in between. The best way to ensure that your patient education efforts will be utilized and will ultimately have impact is to have a plan.

Building Your Plan

1. Pre-Launch – Make your clinical team a part of the process as early in the discussion as possible. Have a few hand-selected advocates who will be your extension in their departments and who will be key resources for you and your staff moving forward. Make sure these people are involved in key planning meetings and implementation strategy discussions. Train them well on the resources available. Conduct staff surveys to identify needs and gaps in your current patient education. And define the best methods of delivery available and within budget.

  • Who else might benefit from access to the resource? Can investment dollars be shared across departments or streamlined systematically?
  • What goals are you trying to achieve? Define your metrics to validate success. Higher HCAHPS scores? Reduced Readmissions in heart failure patients? Increased referral rates? How will you track and measure and who will be responsible for this?
  • Will you be leveraging an existing CCTV or On Demand content delivery system? Do you wish to reach patients at home? Do you want to integrate into your patient portal or EHR? Will patient education be viewed as a required prescription for care? Have you researched other options now available?
  • What additional funding resources are available? Community grants and innovation grants are good sources to check.
  • Who will be your internal champions?

2. Onboarding – It’s important that clinical staff as well as administrators have at least a basic understanding of the patient education library and tools available to them. At a unit or floor level, it’s critical that the nurse managers and patient staff have an intimate knowledge of the content that is relevant to their unit. Drive enthusiasm! These are the people who will make or break your success. A patient education review party or popcorn and a movie (patient education videos!) training session can help get large groups of people familiar with the videos relevant to their department and any sections of the library that might have crossover (Wellness and Quality of Care are two such broad crossover categories.)

  • Hold video review luncheons.
  • Hold contests, team and/or individual competitions for staff reviewing time logged.
  • Issue certifications for review completion.
  • Co-host The Wellness Newtork’s training webinar to explore the value of behavior focused educational content, the development process, a Q&A or review sessions for newly released videos.

3. Training – In addition to the technology training that you need to do in order to access the education on whatever delivery method you have chosen, it’s important to educate staff on the why and how of patient education, health literacy, and what defines quality education. We want to appeal to the emotional side of our care providers here.

  • What happens when people don’t know why they need to take their medication, so they stop?
  • What happens when a surgery patient recently sent home doesn’t recognize the signs of an infection?
  • What happens when a diabetic doesn’t know about the importance of foot care?
  • What happens if a patient relies solely on information they find on YouTube to make decisions about knee surgery?

Patients are often overwhelmed with information or in pain, possibly on medications that make their retention of discharge instructions blurry at best. Having access to medically grounded content that they can review over and again and as needed, and being able to share the videos and information with family is important to their recovery and ongoing health success. More than the “what’s in it for me”, the patient outcomes is what’s going to motivate your team.

So what about the “What’s in it for me?”, simply put – time and efficiency.

  • Health Videos keep the repetitive task of saying the same thing over and over to each patient off your staff’s shoulders.
  • Videos ensure that the critical information gets presented consistently to each patient, without omissions – accidental or due to shortage of time – every time.
  • Videos allow patients to ask informed questions and have meaningful dialog with clinical staff.

4. Continual Onboarding – New Staff – It’s natural that staff will turn over. Be sure to have a plan in place for every new hire. Patient education is one of the new staff on-boarding elements. To assist with this The Wellness Network offers free whitepapers, case studies, and personalized educational training webinars that can be recorded and saved as a staff resource. Have the “culture of education” well established so that new hires sense the importance and value placed on patient education from the start. Assign a Patient Education onboarding mentor – run new hires through steps 2 & 3.

5. Stay Fresh – The Wellness Network is constantly updating and expanding the HealthClips Library, with new releases twice a year adding 80-100 new titles annually along with content updates to keep the current videos up to date and relevant.

  • Train on the new content.
  • Update your tools and leverage the full resource.
  • Revisit steps 2 & 3 as new content is available.
  • Share your success stories! Reach a goal and hit all your metrics? We’ll write up a case study for you.
  • Identify shortfalls and create a plan.

6. Use All the Available ToolsThe Wellness Network offers companion pieces to HealthClips videos:

  • Teachback Questions
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Transcripts
  • Patient Ed Prescription Pages

As well as staff learning tools like whitepapers, case studies, research collaboration, health articles, online newsletters, training webinars, and ongoing customer support.

So, with careful planning and follow through, your team can successfully implement and sustain a practice of patient education. Have a pre-launch plan, define your on-boarding processes, establish structured training practices, rope in new hires immediately, stay fresh, and utilize all available tools.