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WHAT'S NEW IN PATIENT EDUCATION
Patient education has come a long way since simple
tri-fold brochures. Today's options come in a variety of
media---print, video, online and interactive, to name a
few. And they're available from very di erent sources,
including dedicated patient education vendors and
leading medical associations---even health IT systems.
So how do you choose the right ones for your clini-
cians? Follow these guidelines:
Mix and match. There are many patient education
options to choose from, so don't be afraid to blend a
couple of sources to get a single point across, as long as
you keep it simple. "Most health-care providers use a
variety of materials," says Jane Englebright, PhD, RN,
CNO and vice president of the Clinical Services Group
for HCA. "Some are available for free from community
agencies and medical associations, while others are
created by employed clinicians or purchased from
vendors." A patient education packet could include
a brochure created by a patient education vendor, a
DVD from a community agency and a cartoon found
by one of your clinicians.
Evaluate for readability. "Countless studies in a
variety of health-care settings have shown that there
is a mismatch between patients' reading skills and
the reading skills needed to comprehend the consent
forms and handouts they are given," according to the
Health Literacy Educational Toolkit, a patient educa-
tion manual for clinicians sponsored by the American
Medical Association (AMA) Foundation. Researchers
have identified the same problem with patient educa-
tion materials available on the Internet. So how can
you make sure the materials you choose are easy to
understand? First, use the formatting checklist (see
sidebar) when evaluating patient education materials.
Also, test the materials with a few actual patients---
preferably those with low health literacy---before
purchasing them for your clinicians.
Work alongside clinicians. Ideally, clinicians
would be involved in the entire evaluation process
to help you determine if the patient education mate-
rials you're evaluating are easy to understand. One
of the biggest mistakes supply chain professionals
make is "purchasing something that clinicians won't
use because it doesn't fit in their workflow or meet
regulatory requirements," Englebright says. Consider
the regulatory requirements for documenting patient
education and the need for interface into other clini-
Review what's already available. "Before pur-
chasing new patient education materials, consider
what may be available within systems already pur-
chased as resources for pharmacy or nursing sta ,"
suggests Englebright. "Often these systems have a
patient education module that may be a more cost-
e ective option." Also, many of the leading medical
associations o er patient education materials for free.
Use the same evaluation checklist when considering
these resources. •
Tips for navigating a dizzying array of patient education options
Checklist for Easy-to-Understand Patient Education Materials
Make sure the materials cover just one or two key objectives. Providing too much information,
even if it's simply written, can be overwhelming for patients.
Avoid using medical terms. Even though they're familiar to you, they might not be to the average
patient. Clear up any confusion by using plain language alternatives. (See sidebar on the right for a
Write at or below the 6th grade level. This means using plain language, writing in active (rather
than passive) voice, avoiding complex sentences and keeping paragraphs short.
When it comes to fonts, go with a large size (minimum of 12 point) and choose a font with serifs.
The AMA Foundation also underscores the importance of consistency in appearance, so there
should be no more than two or three font styles on a single page.
Break up blocks of text with headings, subheadings and bullet points.
Illustrations can be helpful, but you should avoid complex anatomical diagrams.
--- adapted from the Health Literacy Educational Toolkit, AMA Foundation
E ective patient
terminology and instead
use words even the
patient can understand.
When evaluating patient
check that they're
using plain language
alternatives to confusing
medical terms. Here
are some examples
of medical terms and
their plain language
alternatives from the
> Instead of
hypertension, say high
> Instead of benign,
say not cancer.
> Instead of anti-
inflammatory, say lessens
swelling and irritation.
> Instead of heart
failure, say heart isn't
> Instead of monitor,
say keep track of or keep
an eye on.
> Instead of radiology
department, say X-ray
Need Patient Education
HealthTrust has an
agreement with Krames/
The Staywell Company
for a variety of patient
education materials. See
HPG contract #952.
46 The Source | First Quarter 2012
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