Patient education is the process by which doctors and other healthcare workers impart information to patients and their caregivers about health, diseases and their prevention and management. This also includes transfer of information about his or her health status and needs. Patient education aims to involve the patient and his or her family actively in healthcare related decisions, and also, promote a healthier lifestyle. This includes both general preventive education or health promotion and disease or condition specific education.
Tools for patient education include:
Doctor-patient dialogue and question-answer session
Special counselling sessions with counselors
Information brochures, leaflets or booklets
Educational videos and podcasts
Lectures and group interactions
Patient support groups
Internet based knowledge (may also be self-acquired)
What are the important elements of patient education?
Two key pillars of patient education are patient empowerment and responsibility. Patients need to be educated about what they need to do to make a lifestyle change which promotes health. In addition, they need to be told why the change will be beneficial, and when to start. This makes them more empowered to take decisions about their own body, makes them more involved in their own health, and teaches them to be responsible for the same. They also need to realize that it is only through their own efforts that their health can be restored, and that health care workers can only help in this process. Involving the family and other caregivers makes this lesson more long lasting and fruitful.
What are the important benefits of patient education?
The key benefits of patient education are as follows:
Better understanding of disease or disability, investigations, and treatment
Improved understanding of ways to manage multiple aspects of medical condition, therefore, better informed choice about therapy
Increased compliance with medication and other instructions from doctors, since patient understand the need for the same.
Better patient outcomes since patients are active partners in their own health
Process of informed consent is easier and patients are more satisfied with their treatment plan and outcomes.
Increased patient satisfaction, less confusion and repeat visits/ phone calls for clarifications.
Risk management by managing patient expectations. This also translates into lower risk of malpractice litigation and violence against doctor.
Patient information is especially important in chronic diseases where outcomes are dependent on long term adherence to medication, despite side effects.
What are the barriers for patient education?
Lack of time on the part of the doctors for routine counselling because of poor doctor-patient ratio.
Lack of communication skills since doctors have not been taught to communicate with patients.
Traditional concept of doctors, in India especially, being God-like and above reproach, means that patients do not question doctors.
Lack of availability of interactive patient education material resources in local languages can also prove to a barrier in patient education.
Immediate economic cost of patient education and counseling.
Patients often require reinforcing of the same information again over time, and often doctors believe they have done their job the first time.