Patient Education—Whose Responsibility Is It?
Sometime last week I sent the text you see below out to my family requesting blog ideas as to gauge what readers are interested in or concerned about in the healthcare industry today. What I got back from my dear old dad was the last thing I expected…
I couldn’t believe it, was he trying be “dad funny” or was he serious? The amount of patient educational resources I perceive to be available is innumerable. Could he really not know where to look? I came close to responding, “Are you serious? Ever heard of Google?”, but I would quickly get a phone call starting with Lindsey Marie…
Then I sat down and realized maybe it’s the generational gap; I know how to navigate the internet quickly and efficiently. Or maybe it’s my background in healthcare; from 4 years of college majoring in health information management to working in the industry for a few years, this is my area of expertise. Or maybe it’s my providers; when I go for my regular visits I always get great information.
Pushing all these possible explanations aside, the truth is he seems genuinely frustrated with the lack of educational resources made available to him. We always talk about empowering the patient, increasing patient engagement in their care, and having it be patient centered, but I don’t think researching and finding information that is accurate, reliable, and answers patient-specific questions is the patient’s responsibility, nor is it the provider’s; it should be the EHRs.
Many people don’t know where to look on the internet and have trouble locating reliable information. The patient may not know what’s fact or fiction or whether the author is a “quack” or accredited, and likely aren’t aware of the most trustworthy places to find information. The physician knows what’s valid and most likely knows the best places to look, however they don’t have time to sit down with every patient just to research with them, so whose left? The EHR. The technology should be doing the work for us — and that’s where Meaningful Use comes in.
Meaningful Use objective number 6 requires patient-specific education resources to be identified by Certified EHR Technology and provided to patients. The EHR should use clinically relevant information to identify educational resources for patients. Now my dad may not know what Meaningful Use is, but surely his physician’s and their EHR vendors do and I bet they agree the EHR should do all the work.
To test my theory that it is the EHR’s responsibility to provide patient education materials because it is the most efficient and reliable source, I started doing my own research. Following my own advice, I googled “high blood pressure”. I received 128,000,000 search results in response. After scrolling past the ads, there was a “people also ask section”, and a “high blood pressure in the news” section both of which did not provide any valuable or reliable information. As I searched further into page 2 and 3 of the results I did find some quality educational links and information, but would my dad know what to look for? He would have probably clicked on the ads at the top of the page and then the “in the news section” and have gotten frustrated, rightly so for those of us who aren’t used to navigating internet search engines on a daily basis.
Next, I went and logged into the NextGen Patient Portal and searched “high blood pressure” in the patient education tab where I received more refined search results with no ads, news articles, or unreliable sources. Due to my access to the NextGen EHR I am also aware physicians have many different ways to provide educational resources. These include the internal patient education link which utilizes HealthWise, health promotion plan items, and medication monographs all found within the EHR. Providers also have the ability to link to external education materials such as Medline Plus. These results were not only refined and reliable, but patient-specific and created by the EHR.
The patient-provider relationship is dynamically changing as a result of new health information technologies and online resources made available to patients. At Itentive, we work with providers to go above and beyond to ensure their patients are well-informed. The bottom line here is that patients who stay informed stay healthier, and the EHR is a crucial component in achieving this.
- Lindsey Lanning, Healthcare Informatics Coordinator at Itentive