Five Reasons to Educate Your Patients Digitally
By: Ross Cameron, PT Student
By: Ross Cameron, PT Student
It would be hard to argue that we do not currently live in a largely digital world. An endless supply of knowledge, from daily news to encyclopedias, to scientific journals, is all just one click away. Yet with this vast ocean of knowledge at our fingertips, it can often be difficult to know where to start.
As health care practitioners, a key part of our job is to educate patients on conditions and treatment plans. In the past, this may have been done with pamphlets or handouts given to patients. However, as the world moves to a digital medium, so too must our methods for patient education. This is especially prevalent during the Covid-19 pandemic when a greater portion of health care services are delivered virtually via telehealth and telerehab.
Digital Patient Education has many potential benefits over the old-school hard copy medium. These advantages are supported by current literature and maybe the reason to modernize how you provide your patients with information.
1. Digital Education is more easily understandable by patients
One huge advantage of providing online educational material is that it can be delivered in formats such as videos or animation. Traditional handouts or pamphlets often contain writing that is too advanced for patients to understand, and describing an exercise through words can be a challenge in itself. In fact, studies have found that the majority of online patient education materials are presented at a readability level above the recommended sixth-grade reading level (Eltorai et al., 2015).
Presenting information using multimedia formats such as videos can be a more appropriate strategy to inform a larger patient population. The inherent aspects of video and audio can make the information more engaging and easily comprehensible, leading to a better understanding and improved health outcomes (Kuwabara & Krauss, 2020). Additionally, the video medium may be more appropriate for various learning styles due to the visual and audio components.
2. Digital education leads to greater patient adherence
Often patient adherence to treatment can be a barrier to quality outcomes. No matter how well the session with you goes, if the patient doesn’t do their part, they may not get better. Apps and websites can offer helpful regular reminders for patients to take medication or perform exercises. In chronic heart failure patients, video education resulted in greater self-care behaviour than standard education consisting of handbooks, binders, verbal instructions from medical professionals, etc. (Albert et al., 2007). The group that received video education also presented with improved symptoms at a 3-month follow-up.
3. Digital Education is linked to greater patient safety and self-confidence
Linked to a greater understanding of the educational material is a feeling of elevated self-confidence. Digital education can make patients more familiar and comfortable with their rehab, especially if they can see a demonstration of exercises or movements that they can use for comparison. In a study examining the effectiveness of fall prevention programs, education delivered through video elicited greater improvements in self-confidence and self-perceived risk of falls compared to education delivered through a written workbook (Hill et al., 2009). When it comes to falls prevention, we should be selecting the strategies that instil confidence in/or patients, as fear of falling is in itself a risk factor to falls.
4. Digital Education improves satisfaction and perception of care
Patients who feel they are better informed by their health care professional will also feel a greater perception of care. Through being informed of conditions, procedures, and treatments, patients will feel as though they are understood and valued. In a study with over 130 women prior to a breast cancer procedure, interactive educational material delivered through a digital medium was preferred over traditional education. The patients who received the interactive education demonstrated increased factual knowledge of the procedure, greater satisfaction post-operation, and decreased anxiety throughout (Heller et al., 2008). Another study found similar results, with postoperative hip surgery patients showing greater satisfaction and information recall when presented with information digitally than on paper (Dallimore et al., 2017). At the end of the day, if we can reduce the emotional distress a patient faces while also giving them a greater understanding, digital education should be a no-brainer.
5. Digital Education is more accessible to patients and caregivers
In the current pandemic age, it’s now more common than ever for patients to perform treatment or exercises at home. With video conferencing software it’s much easier to demonstrate techniques to patients and watch to ensure they are being performed correctly. Additionally, if the treatment has to be administered by a caregiver at home, you don’t have to rely on a chain of communication from you to the patient to the caregiver, as you can watch to make sure the caregiver is doing things properly.
Also, if you are able to send a video link of an exercise to patients, they will be able to later refer to it to refresh themselves on the proper technique. This eliminates the need for patients to remember what a demonstration looked like and can prevent them from improperly performing the exercise.
Overall, digital technologies make it easier and more effective for practitioners to share information with their patients. They can provide better education, instill greater confidence, improve safety, and create better outcomes. One last benefit is the number of trees that are saved from eliminating the need for paper pamphlets and brochures!
Oh hey look, it's us! Embodia has many features to help you with your patient treatments. The first, Embodia for Home Exercise Prescription (HEP) provides the practitioner with over 2000+ high definition exercise videos (print-friendly versions available). Clinics also have the option to create a private, branded library of content!
Our HEP also allows you to record your patient in session, track and monitor patient data and outcomes and communicate with your patient electronically and easily all through one platform.
Another feature offered by Embodia is Embodia Academy, your one-stop shop for healthcare continuing education. Although Embodia Academy does not 'directly' help you with treatments, we believe that education is the key to more informed and effective treatments and improved patient outcomes.
Our always-expanding library allows you to choose from over 600 online healthcare professional courses, engage in discussion forums, and join a live online training session of your choice.
Albert, N. M., Buchsbaum, R., & Li, J. (2007). Randomized study of the effect of video education on heart failure healthcare utilization, symptoms, and self-care behaviors. Patient education and counseling, 69(1-3), 129-139.
Dallimore, R. K., Asinas-Tan, M. L., Chan, D., Hussain, S., Willett, C., & Zainuldin, R. (2017). A randomised, double-blinded clinical study on the efficacy of multimedia presentation using an iPad for patient education of postoperative hip surgery patients in a public hospital in Singapore. Singapore medical journal, 58(9), 562.
Eltorai, A. E., Sharma, P., Wang, J., & Daniels, A. H. (2015). Most American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ online patient education material exceeds average patient reading level. Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®, 473(4), 1181-1186.
Heller, L., Parker, P. A., Youssef, A., & Miller, M. J. (2008). Interactive digital education aid in breast reconstruction. Plastic and reconstructive surgery, 122(3), 717-724.
Hill, A. M., McPhail, S., Hoffmann, T., Hill, K., Oliver, D., Beer, C., ... & Haines, T. P. (2009). A randomized trial comparing digital video disc with written delivery of falls prevention education for older patients in hospital. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 57(8), 1458-1463.
Kuwabara, A., Su, S., & Krauss, J. (2020). Utilizing Digital Health Technologies for Patient Education in Lifestyle Medicine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 14(2), 137-142.