4 Tips for Patient Education Governance

Connie Feiler, MSN, RN, Healthwise Clinical Director of Patient Experience

A healthcare provider educates a patient


Health systems may only see patients once or twice a year, but patients have their whole lives to manage their heath. And patient education is key for lifelong success. How do you make sure patient education brings all its benefits to your patients AND your health system? Through patient education governance. Patient education governance means creating a structured program that helps your organization use education effectively. It’s having someone (or a few someones) with authority to make sure good patient education is available and easy to access throughout the organization.

When I became Director of Patient Education at a large health system in the Northeast (before working at Healthwise), I faced many challenges. Fragmented patient education sources, doctors who created their own education materials, clinicians who didn’t know how to use the patient education properly, and no organized strategy to improve the program.

I wasn’t alone in the challenges I faced. Many organizations don’t prioritize making it easy for clinicians—and other employees—to build patient education into everyday care. When done right, patient education governance can solve these problems AND means better care for patients. Ultimately, I helped to establish one trusted patient education content vendor for our health system and worked with my governance team to simplify using patient education in ways that improved care. Your organization can use education to improve care quality too, but you’ll need patient education governance to do it.

So, now the big question: how? I won’t share an exhaustive how-to—check out the end of the blog if that’s what you’re looking for—but will offer a few tips for making it work:

A team of medical providers discuss patient education governance


  • Create connections
    If you don’t have a patient education governance program in place, a good first step is to get in touch with your supply chain and finance colleagues—they’re the ones who will know what contracts you already have in place for patient education. Creating connections with these colleagues can help you fully understand the network of vendors and education providers your organization works with. Not only will you learn what patient education is actually available, but you should be able to reduce costs from having multiple vendors.
  • Bring it all together
    If you face fragmented education touchpoints across your health system, patients are probably just as confused as your employees. You may have different vendors who offer conflicting education, education leading to quality errors, or even employees finding (and using) whatever education they can online. Evaluate where your organization gets its patient education and how to improve the process. Your ultimate goal is to ensure consistency by limiting patient education vendors while adding custom content where it’s relevant.
  • Cast a wide net
    When building your patient education governance leadership team, appoint one person to lead the effort—often this person will have a title like “manager or director of patient education”—but be sure the larger team or committee includes stakeholders from across the organization. One key success factor is having a physician champion to co-lead the governance team. This physician will have credibility with their physician peers and can advocate for patient education improvements. Involve physicians from key specialties, nurses, and administrators, as well as other essential staff like informatics, clinical directors, marketing and communications, home care, and health plan colleagues. Having everyone on board means buy-in and ideas for a program that works. It also means everyone uses the same education resources, so patients get consistent messages at every touchpoint—from their physician’s office, at the bedside, while on your website, or in their patient portal.

    And remember, stakeholders don’t have to make a huge time commitment. A short, virtual monthly committee meeting and further engagement on an as-needed basis means patient governance allies don’t feel overwhelmed and will remain supportive of your efforts.
  • Get hands on
    Understand the current state of patient education to improve the future state. Get hands on by rounding on units and talking to those directly working in patient education delivery. You’ll see how clinicians are using education, learn how to best build education into the workflow, and be able to pinpoint opportunities for improvement.

    For example, a clinician may be working with a patient who speaks Spanish, but the clinician forgets that patient education is available in Spanish (or forgot how to access the Spanish version). By seeing these challenges in real life, you’ll know what the patient education governance program needs to address. Alternatively, you may see things that are going well. Perhaps certain clinicians are great at including caregivers in education conversations. You can then share these successes across the organization and reinforce best practices.

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 me, reach out to your account manager.