As a part of our pilot research for HealthEd On Demand, a Web-based patient engagement tool, I’ve recently visited a few family medicine offices to better understand the way physicians are educating patients.
From what I've seen, just about every one of these diverse practices (from low-overhead to large groups) applies the same patient education approach. The doctor has his or her favorite educational handouts in a file, organized by condition. The doctor flips through the file, pulls out information, and hands it to the patient.
This file has a range of materials—mostly copies of old brochures (several very old). Some of these copies are branded (a few were branded in the past, but only the hint of a logo remains). Other materials haven been printed from the Web. Overall, these handouts are not designed to be easy to read, and reproducing the copies makes them more difficult to read.
Why do physicians avoid using the new brochures and materials provided by pharmaceutical companies? I think it’s a combination of trust and time. Over time, the physicians have created a collection of content they trust, and they don’t have time to review the new materials they receive. These doctors also may be worried about the messages being shared by pharmaceutical companies in branded educational pieces. So, how can pharma support health education in offices like these?
For starters, a few suggestions:
- Look beyond brochures in the closet and consider leaping into an online experience
- Integrate patient education into co-pay and relationship marketing program materials
- Offer services or tools to support the healthcare provider's role as an educator
- Connect patients with content at the pharmacy
- Perhaps, think mobile
Doctors want patient education that meets their needs and inspires patients to help manage their own health. It’s only a matter of time before those old photocopies are replaced—and as practices move to electronic health records, health education and communication must also evolve.
Anne Jani, MPH, CHES
Manager, Health Education