Why Patient Education is a “Need-to-Have” for Successful Care Coordination

Healthwise Care Coordination Team

Editor’s Note: For health systems, care coordination is the key to engaging patients outside the walls of care. In these posts, we’ll explore six steps for developing a care coordination program that increases revenue, cuts costs, and enhances the quality of patient care. In this post, we’ll look at ways you can use patient education more effectively and efficiently in your care coordination efforts.

I asked Jill what the doctor said about the results of her latest tests. She smiled and said, “Which doctor?” This was all too common for Jill. For months, she’d been seeing an oncologist, a neurologist, a surgeon, a naturopath, and more. The latest appointment was the sixth one in a month. “How do you keep it all straight?” She explained to me that she can’t. It’s just not possible. She takes notes during appointments when she can. When her head is clear enough and she is not devastated or elated by recent test results, Jill asks for information in written form or online so she can read it later.

It’s normal to be concerned when you or a loved one has a new diagnosis—especially when that diagnosis is unfamiliar or scary. You may rely on your provider to explain everything you need to know to navigate through new territory.

Even when a new diagnosis doesn’t include metastatic cancer like Jill’s or a chronic condition like diabetes, it’s still important to gain a solid understanding of the treatment plan.

So how can a health care organization help people like Jill? One way is to make patient education a priority in care coordination programs. According to a recent survey published by the Health Intelligence Network, 71 percent of respondents said patient and caregiver education is the top strategy their organizations used to engage patients.

Care coordinators listed these as the top five patient education program features:

  • Easy to understand
  • Easy to deliver
  • Searchable in a variety of ways
  • Fits into their workflow
  • Previewable

The challenge of making a patient education program work for everyone might seem daunting. But there’s hope. Here are four ways to start helping care coordinators and patients.

One: Deliver consistent health information to patients.

Jill knows she can ask her providers for information that she can read later. She also knows her doctors, nurses, and other providers are able to track her case via her electronic health record and see what information she’s received. When she was first diagnosed, Jill craved health information. She wanted the latest and greatest information about her condition. So, it’s not a surprising statistic that 72 percent of internet users say they have looked online for health information in the past year.

When you have an effective and efficient care coordination program, your team can deliver one-on-one information to patients like Jill with more impact, while increasing appeal, comprehension, and retention.

How does this help your organization? One way is by lowering the percentage of patients who forget or misunderstand information. According to the National Institutes of Health, patients tend to immediately forget 40 to 80 percent of the information their doctors tell them during an office visit. Providing patients with information about ways to manage their condition and information about medications is a critical step.

Two: Ensure that your patient education is unbiased and evidence-based.

Can you assure your audience that your patient education content is unbiased and evidence-based? Why should you care? Unbiased information is necessary to ensure accuracy and reliability because health content, like every form of content, can be manipulated by self-interested parties. Who pays for studies? Who benefits when results are conclusive? It’s possible that instead of helping your patients and your organization, you may be inadvertently helping a pharmaceutical or medical device company’s bottom line.

For Jill and her family, having the assurance that the information she gets from her providers is unbiased and evidence-based gives her peace of mind. She knows she can trust the credibility of the care coordination team because the content offers objectivity and facts.

Three: Provide behavior change tools for care coordinators and patients.

When you give your patients access to tools and information, you directly help them achieve their health goals. And care coordinators develop an understanding of the whole patient—her condition and where she is on her care journey. Is she still at a point where preventive care is the focus? Maybe she’s had a couple of lab results that point toward an oncoming chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension. And possibly, there’s already a health issue that needs immediate attention. Regardless of where a person is on her journey, best practices in behavioral science begin with listening to people, helping them identify personal motivators for change, and guiding them toward success. Offer tools that motivate, interventions that are grounded in behavior change science, and content that engages, and you’ll reach each patient with more impact.

Four: Offer education that is easy to deliver and easy for patients to understand.

It’s not surprising that health literacy is a continual challenge for all of us. What’s getting in the way of patient comprehension? Pain, fear, stress, medications—any of these can affect our ability to grasp and remember information. Information presented in plain language is crucial for people like Jill. She isn’t a health professional and before this point in her life, she’s been very healthy. Having information that’s easy to understand increases health literacy, helps people take actions to improve their health and encourages patients to stay on the treatment plan.

Making health content easy for your care coordinators to find and prescribe is important, too. A good patient education solution integrates into your patient management system and allows care coordinators to quickly get to the right education, at the right time, to meet each patient’s needs.

Read our eBook, The State of Care Coordination: 6 Illuminating Strategies You Should Know, for more information on best practices in care coordination to facilitate change.


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