The Importance of Patient Education to Drive Activation and Engagement

Man happily using a phone

When patients are curious about their medical conditions, including their mental health conditions, they tend to seek information online. Curiosity is a positive sign, since it frequently signals that your patient is ready to take responsibility for their choices and is able to participate in their care. Sadly, though, the internet is full of misleading content that may be harmful to your patient’s health. 

In order for patients to make good decisions, they need reliable information. The internet provides easily accessible information, however, the quality and usefulness of the health information available online varies greatly between sources. There is a strong connection between patient education and patient activation, which includes a desire to actively take part in one's health decisions. Yet, being exposed to inaccurate or outdated health information could negatively affect a patient’s health-related decisions. 

The fact is, many of your patients are going to seek out information on their health conditions. Fortunately, there are ways to provide your patients with educational resources from vetted sources. This article will cover the benefits of patient education, the impact on behavioral health outcomes, the importance of patient education for behavioral health and human services patients, and the role that patient engagement platforms can play in providing reliable resources.

Types of Patient Education

Formal patient education occurs when a nurse or other caregiver educates a patient about a treatment plan, an upcoming procedure, or how to take care of themself after a procedure or upon discharge. Types of teaching methods include one-on-one teaching, demonstrations, and teach-back — where the patient puts the instructions into their own words, reflecting back what they’ve been taught. 

Brochures, infographics, and other printed materials can be used as teaching tools during formal education. Some health care areas mandate formal patient education, such as in pharmaceutical medicine. By law, pharmacists are required to educate patients about their medications. 

As effective as formal patient education is, it’s time-consuming and may not be possible to offer to all patients for all their needs. Many patients also seek additional information. The result is that patients are increasingly choosing self-education and using digital media as their preferred method of patient education. As an added benefit, these materials can be referred to at any time and can also be shared with family members.

Digital patient education materials often have been specifically designed to be easy to understand. According to the Center for Health Care Strategies, about 36% of Americans suffer from low health literacy levels — health literacy is a person’s ability to read, understand, and use health care information. Low literacy undermines the communication between physician and patient. The result can be a diminished level of care. Therefore, it’s critical that health literacy is factored into the design of patient education materials.

According to one study, physicians who’ve embraced the use of digital technology like electronic health records and patient engagement platforms say they believe that in addition to reducing physician burnout, digital tools improve the patient experience, particularly in regards to patient education. 

Benefits of Patient Education

Patient education: couple using a phone

One of the greatest benefits of patient education is that it improves health outcomes. Through patient education, health care providers can help their patients better understand their health conditions and the actions they can take to achieve optimal health, as well as offer guidance on how to navigate the health care system effectively. Numerous studies have found many benefits of patient education, including:

  • Reduces patients’ fear and anxiety
  • Decreases pain levels of patients who experience chronic pain
  • Improves functioning in patients with chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes (most likely due to those patients making lifestyle changes)
  • Enhances patients’ confidence to participate in shared decision-making
  • Meets value-based criteria
  • Improves patient safety
  • Heightens trust between patients and health care professionals
  • Help patients make lifestyle changes and stick to treatment plans

Patient education also seems to promote patient-centered care. Under that umbrella, it impacts patient well-being and wellness by promoting patient self-care. 

Further, patient education can improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of health care delivery by encouraging medication and treatment compliance. Last but not least, educating patients ensures continuity of care and reduces complications surrounding treatment and as a result of worsening chronic illness.

How Patient Education Affects Patient Engagement

Effective patient education is directly related to patient engagement. Fully engaged patients are motivated to participate in their care. When patients are educated about their choices, they better understand the possibilities and the impact of their decisions. Engaged patients are more willing to accept responsibility for the lifestyle choices they make and, according to research, tend to make better decisions. This is yet another way that patient education improves health outcomes. 

Importance of Digital Patient Education for Behavioral Health and Human Services

Patient education, including community education, has long been part of behavioral health and human services. It’s important to promote digital patient education because of the connection to many of the current priorities in behavioral health, such as cost coordination, population health management, patient engagement, and improved outcomes. 

Compliance is another reason behavioral health providers should strive to adopt digital health IT. Electronic health record (EHR) adoption by behavioral health providers makes compliance with ICD-10 and DSM-V easier, according to research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The ONC explains that digital patient engagement technology can reduce the rate of readmission, decrease communication failures, prevent confusion about medication usage, improve the patient’s likelihood of following up with treatment, and help educate patients about their test results. 

The ONC expects that digital technology like integrated EHRs with a patient portal and patient engagement platform will improve the lives of behavioral health and human services patients by promoting education, easing the transition of care between medical providers, and improving care coordination. The area of crisis response may also see benefits; according to the ONC, “access to treatment data may help avoid ER use or hospitalization.”

Meet Your Patient’s Needs with ContinuumCloud’s Mobile Patient Engagement Platform

Patient education: woman happily looking at the camera

We know that patient education is closely linked to patient engagement, and especially patient activation. Patients who take an active role in their health care also take more responsibility for themselves by making better lifestyle choices. It may seem impossible to manage where your patients turn for answers about their mental health when you're not around. But what if you could satisfy their need for more information?

Today, behavioral health providers can help their patients overcome obstacles like misleading information or low levels of health literacy with digital tools and online services. Patient engagement platforms like ContinuumCloud’s use modern health technology to improve your patients’ access to quality patient education. 

Our patient engagement platform is a fully functional mobile app with advanced communication tools and a social media-like peer support experience. The mobile app features a curated content library that includes digital, print, and video resources your patients can trust. This set of tools supports a holistic approach to health and well-being, helping you guide your patients to reliable sources of health information and encouraging engagement.

Say goodbye to ineffective, inaccurate, outdated, and confusing patient information. Connect with a behavioral health IT expert to learn about ContinuumCloud’s mobile patient engagement platform, integrated EHR with a patient portal, and related patient engagement solutions today. Be sure to ask about the only curated patient education content library for behavioral health and human services providers that can match your high standards. 

Previous Resource
Choosing the Best Mental Health Software for Your Practice
Choosing the Best Mental Health Software for Your Practice

Learn how mental health software specifically designed for behavioral health organizations can help your co...

Next Resource
How Can Revenue Cycle Management Healthcare Software Help You?
How Can Revenue Cycle Management Healthcare Software Help You?

To take care of your patients, you first need to make sure your practice is financially sound. Revenue cycl...