One Moment That Mattered—A Physician’s Perspective on Patient Education

Dr. Adam Husney, Chief Medical Officer

I remember an older couple I took care of many years ago. They had been married about twice as long as I had been alive and seemed more in love than a couple of teenagers. One late night, I got a call from the emergency department that the woman had a hemorrhagic stroke. When I arrived at the hospital, the neurosurgeon was talking to her husband and telling him that surgery was needed.

In this moment, under extreme emotion, they faced a tough decision. I tried to paint what I thought was a more realistic picture for a 90-year-old woman with a bleed in her brain.

Without access to top-quality information or a complete understanding of the options, her husband chose surgery. The surgery wasn’t successful, and over the next few days, I met her two sons—one a college professor, the other a mutual fund manager—as they said goodbye to their mother. Although the outcome was not good, I did feel privileged to have gotten to know her and her husband and to be included in such an important moment in her family’s life.

This is just one example of professional experiences I’ve had that illustrate that people need to be informed about their condition and their options. When they find themselves in these moments, they’re able to make different choices—different than the ones we might expect—ones that are consistent with the medical facts and with the person’s preferences and values.

Patients have standards about the information they receive, and providers do, too, about the patient education they give out. If I don’t have confidence in the quality of the information and the process doesn’t work well for me—it doesn’t fit into my workflow, or it isn’t easy to find, preview, and use, or it isn’t trackable—then I’m not going to use it.

Decisions about our health may need to happen quickly, and they’re choices we make that can affect the rest of our lives. I’ve seen patient education help all kinds of people with these decisions. As providers, we understand the medicine and the options, but we aren’t always good at assessing what matters most to our patients. When we have solid patient education, we have a better opportunity to strengthen relationships and get to what our patients want, need, and value.

I have confidence in the information I give to patients. I know it’s evidence-based, user-tested, trusted information. I know it’s a great way to help people stay engaged in their health journey so they make the best decisions they can when it really counts.

Watch the webinar, Not All Patient Education is Created Equal, presented by Dr. Adam Husney, and Christy Calhoun to learn how the right patient education helps strengthen provider-patient relationships.