IT: The Unsung Heroes of Health Education

Healthwise Communications Team

Editor’s Note: At the 2023 HIMMS conference in Chicago, Healthwise’s Connie Feiler and Jillian Shotwell presented with Greg O’Neill, ChristianaCare’s Patient and Family Health Education Director. The talk was titled “Patient Education Partnerships With IT Are Crucial for Success,” and it shined a spotlight on the unsung heroes of health education: Health IT. If you missed it, read on to learn more about IT’s critical role.

IT’s Role in Health Education

If you work in IT at a healthcare organization, you might not think you have much to do with patient education. After all, you’re not the ones meeting with patients. But IT is critical for getting the right education into patients’ hands.

Hispanic nurse using digital tablet in hospital


First, we have to talk about patient education governance. It’s a strategy—and a team—with the authority to make decisions about an organization’s patient education. The IT team must be part of the patient education governance group. Here’s why: Not only does IT help all the systems at an organization run properly and work together, but IT teams also have a unique perspective on patient education vendors and systems.

Here's how IT teams can help with patient education governance:

  • Ensure consistency with a single vendor
    Consistency in health education is key. If your organization has one trustworthy education provider, patients will get a consistent message throughout their care journey. And IT teams can offer insight into which vendors your organization uses. But make sure you’re using quality education. When considering education vendors, look for education that includes offerings in multiple languages, text written at a fourth- to sixth-grade reading level, an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and specific caregiver content.
  • Partner with clinical leadership
    The IT team knows what education and accompanying technologies work with your systems, including your EMR, patient portals, and public-facing website. This is important, because even the best education won’t help if your clinicians and patients can’t use it. IT is a key partner to ensure all integrations—both in the digital and clinical workflows—work seamlessly and that clinicians know how to access education. IT can also help clinicians understand how to check education usage analytics.
  • Communicate value
    Let’s face it, the bottom line is important. Organizations can count on IT to make sure education is not fragmented across the organization. If you have several different education vendors being used by different departments (for example, on your website versus in your EMR), this not only creates inconsistencies for patients, but it costs your organization money. IT can help understand which education partners you have and what that education offers. Fewer vendors mean money saved and consistent education organization-wide.

One Organization’s Path

ChristianaCare, a regional healthcare system in Delaware, proves the importance of partnering with IT on patient education. ChristianaCare started with eight different education vendors, caregiver confusion around education, and poor collaboration with IT. They describe it as a time when education was just an afterthought. But after taking a more intentional approach to patient education, the results speak for themselves.

After forming a governance group—which includes IT—they now have centralized, intentional decision-making around their patient education and a five-year strategic plan. The governance group has direct vendor contract control, and they narrowed down education vendors to two quality options that are used enterprise-wide. The group also worked to ensure education is easily accessible in clinical workflows. And they’ve seen measurable improvement:

  • Long-term strategic partnerships with just two education vendors (rather than the previous eight), which reduced contract costs by two-thirds
  • Saved nurses time by reducing their documentation burdens
  • Tripled their education content utilization in just two years, and reduced their custom content use from nearly 50% to just 14%
  • Patients provided with consistent education at every touchpoint of the patient journey
Infographic showing measurable improvements as a result of patient education governance groups including IT


ChristianaCare’s experience proves that by working on a patient governance plan that includes IT, organizations can improve interoperability, streamline clinical workflows, and use analytics to gain a better understanding of patient experience and knowledge to guide education efforts.

Using Data to See Impact

Finally, if your organization wants to discover how education makes a difference by tracking data and using analytics, working with your IT department is crucial. Three organizations have recently partnered with their IT groups and Healthwise’s Quality Improvement and Outcomes Research team to do exactly that.

The first is Parkview Health, a large hospital system in the Midwest. They wanted to see if offering multimedia patient education at bedside would improve their HCAHPS scores, which factor into healthcare quality measures. Parkview worked with their IT team to roll out tablets loaded with educational videos for inpatient beds at two hospital sites. Then Parkview’s IT team collaborated with Healthwise to gather and crunch the data. They compared before-and-after HCAHPS and survey scores and found their HCAHPS scores had improved.

Two more examples come from UNC Health and Alberta Health Services. At both healthcare systems, departments wanted to be able to efficiently track education usage and how it affects health outcomes. To make sure departments can access the data themselves, the IT teams at each organization worked with Healthwise to set up systems that make the information available to departmental leads. These systems give departments the autonomy and knowledge they need to choose the most effective and relevant health education for their patients.

Although these projects may seem straightforward, setting them up is complicated. And again, IT came through to make the projects possible. They were able to identify the correct data fields to pull from within EMRs, join education data with tracking metrics from different sources, and prioritize the outcomes project to ensure they actually happened. Their IT teams’ efforts show what happens when you have a collaborative team of IT and clinical professionals, the data you need, and a well-scoped quality project to pursue.

So, there you have it. IT is key to successfully implementing patient education at any organization, and also key to measuring how well the education works.

Are you looking to improve or implement patient education governance at your institution? Healthwise is helping organizations like yours to do just that. If you’re a Healthwise client and would like to set up a free consultation with Connie, reach out to your account manager. To learn more about Healthwise health education, contact us.

If you’re interested in seeing this talk live, it will be shared at the Health Care Education Association conference in September.