I’ve previously discussed what I consider the five imperatives of patient-centric care. One of them was quality patient education and monitoring tools.
- Tools must reflect health literacy. Health literacy is defined by the Department of Health and Human Services as “…the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” Health literacy is a problem which must be addressed across all areas of healthcare. Consider hospital consent forms for admission and procedures or the ubiquitous HIPAA law notification form where someone might commonly be asked to “just sign here” with the expectation that it won’t be understood anyway. Though simple in concept, health literacy of labels and documents is difficult to achieve by pharmaceutical companies in their own labeling to patients/consumers. This challenge arises because of the paradoxical regulatory requirements the government places upon these industries. There is an admirable movement afoot to have these labels accommodate health literacy considerations.
- Digital tools must be accurate and interactive. Accuracy of information implies that it is current, factually correct, and follows, if applicable, the most recent professional society guidelines. Therein lies the devil is in the details factor which is most important to both patient/caregivers and healthcare providers. It has been previously recommended that professional medical societies become proactive in developing and reviewing apps. This activity would speak to the mission statements of these organizations by promoting both education and standards for quality care. At this time there is no easy alternative to address this issue. Third party medical publishers can certainly play an intermediary role in providing content. Accuracy of digital educational material is probably the most critical aspect of the adoption of mobile technologies from the viewpoint of the purchaser whether it is a patient or provider. The interactivity of the app is relevant to patient engagement which by definition must be an active process. Interactivity is also important as it can serve as a metric of patient engagement, and even potentially as a patient care quality improvement metric.
- Patient education tools must be delivered at the point of engagement. The point of engagement (POE) is where the need for these tools is most needed and the opportunity for their most significant impact to be made. It need not be the point of a provider-patient interaction. It is where the most questions will be formulated by patients or caregivers who are often too overwhelmed with information to ask. This POE is more appropriate for the patient’s navigation of the healthcare system which involves so much more than the office visit to the physician or hospital, otherwise known as the point of care.
- The tools must be interoperable with electronic health record systems. The ability for the educational tool to interoperate with the EHR is important for a number of reasons. I look forward to the day in which these digital education tools are literally prescribed electronically by the provider the same as a prescription. Doing so incorporates them into the EHR as a significant and respected part of the patient’s care. These tools should also become part of the patient portal, that interactive part of the EHR which patients have access to.
- Educational tools must be designed with the caregiver in mind. There is no solution to the crisis in healthcare which will be successful without considering the caregiver. Educational tools must be able to be accessed by caregivers (if so directed by the patient or health POA). One of the benefits of digital tools is that they can be shared seamlessly with caregivers. Some tools will be directed specifically towards caregivers who are taking care of patients without digital technology capabilities or adequate literacy to review them alone. Others will hopefully be directed to the caregiver as support tools in caring for the patient or for they themselves (who are well-known to be vulnerable to problems generated by the stress of caregiving).
Both patients and caregivers have expressed a desire to receive more digital tools. Digital patient education tools are an increasing focus of Pharma and patient education content developer/marketers. It is time to put theory into practice and deliver what people want and deserve.