Educate Your Orthopedic Patients With Human-Centered Digital Outreach

Healthwise Communications Team

Hip replacement and knee replacement surgeries are routine to most orthopedic surgeons. But to patients, these procedures may be frightening and confusing. Talking every single individual through the process is time-consuming for clinicians, and many aspects of pre- and post-op care are often either brushed over during office visits or forgotten by patients by the time they need the information.


Hospital systems have begun to rely on digital orthopedic patient education to ensure patients get the health information they need before and after surgery, which lightens the load on clinicians and helps patients understand what to expect every step of the way.

What Is a Digital Orthopedic Outreach Program?

Simply put, a digital orthopedic outreach program is a collection of patient education topics and interactive tools that people can access online. Invitations can be sent out on an automated or individual basis, and the education is scheduled for delivery at appropriate stages of the patient’s journey.

For example, a patient might be assigned the following topics to read before surgery:

  • How to prepare for surgery
  • What to expect with anesthesia
  • How to have a safe hospital stay
  • How to manage post-op pain levels

After the procedure, patients can receive an overview of which symptoms are normal, which symptoms should be reported to their clinician, post-op exercises, and a refresher about managing pain.

Give Doctors the Gift of Time

Clinicians in all fields spend a frustrating amount of time on tasks that could be automated. But this is especially true for orthopedic surgeons because so many of their patients undergo the same procedures—knee and hip replacements—and these patients all need to receive the exact same information. By engaging patients virtually, office visits can be used to address individual needs and concerns.

Doctors report spending 49% of their time on EHR and desk work, and just 27% of their time with patients.1 How many more surgeries could your surgeons schedule each week if a digital health education program unchained them from the desk and handled many of those tasks for them?

Use Multimedia Tools to Improve Health Literacy

Too often, patients are handed a bunch of boring, wordy printouts and told to read them at home. And just as often, those black-and-white papers get tossed into the back seat of the patient’s car, forgotten until they clean out the car months later. [Editor’s note: Or is that just me?]

A brand-new study highlights the importance of information design and user experience in orthopedic patient education.2 Human-centered design makes complex health information clear and digital health provides new opportunities to design scalable educational interventions that patients want to use.

Besides being visually unappealing, much of the material distributed is written in a way that’s intimidating and confusing to many patients. One study found that 81% of American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) material exceeds readability guidelines.3

Help Patients Manage Post-Op Pain

Pain management is perhaps the most important role patient education plays in post-op recovery. When asked, post-op patients said pain was their number one concern was pain: how much was normal, how best to manage it, and how to wean off pain medication.4 Many also reported going online to research answers and expressed interest in receiving the information on their mobile device.

Opioid addiction rates make pain-management education a critical part of the patient journey. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that 10 million patients misuse prescription pain relievers each year, and the number of people receiving medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction is up 142%.5 By making the information available online, patients can reference it at any point from their phone, tablet, or computer. And by making sure your content is at their fingertips, you ensure that every patient gets consistent and accurate answers to their questions instead of finding inaccurate or inconsistent guidelines online.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought virtual health options to the forefront, but this trend won’t disappear along with the virus. Patients not only benefit from digital patient education—they’ve come to expect it in the long term. Discover the possibilities by visiting our Digital Experiences page. And learn more about how your hospital system can use health education by downloading our free eBrief, Generating Revenue & Controlling Costs: The Hidden Talents of Patient Education.

1 https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M16-0961
2 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12178-020-09683-3
3 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11999-014-4071-2
4 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12891-017-1769-9
5 https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/opioid-crisis-statistics/index.html