Why Patient Education Is Vital for Better Outcomes
The mission of healthcare is to deliver excellent patient outcomes. And in recent years, people are wanting to know more about how that happens.
According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts 81% of U.S. adults support more access to health information for patients and providers.
Patients understandably want to learn about their care. Patient education is a powerful way to meet patients’ curiosity and provide high-quality information. When patients are informed, they can experience better outcomes.
Explore the purpose of patient education and how it supports better patient outcomes.
What Is Patient Education?
Patient education is the process of teaching patients about their health, what their options are for treatment and how they can manage chronic conditions. There are many ways to provide patient education, including written materials, videos and in-person discussion.
Patient education, as defined by the Health Care Education Association, is a four-step process tailored to the individual needs of patients. The four steps are assessment, planning, implementing and evaluating.
First is the assessment, which is when the provider asks about the patient's current level of understanding. Providers can determine this through a simple conversation, informal interview or by asking the patient to fill out a questionnaire when they check in for their appointment.
Next is the planning stage. This is a critical phase in which provider and patient work together to create an education plan that supports the patient’s specific learning needs. Providers can build off their patients’ existing knowledge to set goals and devise an actionable plan for all stages of care.
The patient education process moves on to the implementing stage, which is when all the planning and goal-setting is enacted as treatment begins. Providers and patients must keep the key points of the plan at top of mind. Providers should also be ready for questions. Patients’ needs, questions and perceptions can shift from the planning stage, especially once the treatment process becomes real. Providers should regularly check in with patient, adjust to their learning comfort level, and answer questions as they arise.
The final step is the evaluation. Here is when providers assess whether educational materials provided to the patient are having the desired effect. At this stage, the patient should be able to apply what they've learned to their health. Meeting this standard assesses both the patient’s understanding and the provider’s delivery.
The Benefits of Patient Education
By educating patients about their health conditions, they're more likely to adhere to their treatment plan and experience better health outcomes. According to the 2022 Health Systems' Climate Study from the University of Colorado Denver, many healthcare systems are making the shift to be patient-centered. By prioritizing patient care, providers build a foundation of trust with patients and create an environment where patients feel comfortable asking questions.
Patient education can also be beneficial when it:
- Helps patients better understand their health and what they can do to manage it.
- Helps patients make more informed decisions about their health and healthcare.
- Motivates patients to follow their treatment regimens.
- Provides clear information that’s easy to understand and follow.
How Patient Education Creates Better Pre- and Post-Procedure Outcomes
Patient education improves communication between patients and medical professionals. When patients feel comfortable communicating with their doctor or nurse, they're more likely to ask questions and express concerns that could impact their care.
Patient education benefits patients at all stages, including before treatment begins. When patients better understand their health and what to expect from treatments, they’re more likely to buy into the plans and trust their medical providers. Patients shouldn’t be surprised by what happens next.
Patient education has post-procedure benefits, too. When hospital patients are discharged, for example, they often receive a lot of information and might not remember all of it. Education before discharge, along with clear and well-documented materials to take with them, help patients understand their discharge instructions and how to seek follow-up care.
How Patient Education Supports Preventative Care
Patient education also improves preventative care by teaching people how to effectively manage their conditions, including chronic medical conditions.
Chronic conditions are a leading cause of death and disability worldwide, and they're also a major driver of healthcare costs. In the United States, for example, chronic conditions account for 90% of all healthcare spending.
When patients receive clear, accurate information about their health, many chronic conditions can be mitigated or even prevented. Patients can make lifestyle changes, seek treatment and more when they understand what they’re dealing with.