Healthcare // Patient Tools
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4/20/2011
10:04 AM
Paul Cerrato
Paul Cerrato
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IT Drives Patient Education

Computer-generated questionnaires, medication resolution programs, and sophisticated videos are making a difference in patient care.

In an earlier column, I complained that IT spends a lot of time providing electronic tools for clinicians--electronic health records (EHRs), computerized physician ordering systems (CPOS), etc.--but not enough time developing tools to improve patient education.

I was wrong. Digging deeper into this area has convinced me that there are all sorts of practical technology-based resources to help patients understand their treatment and how to comply with their doctors' advice.

Simple But Effective

A closer look at the marriage between IT and patient education reveals that even simple measures can make a big difference. An innovative program set up at the Mayo Clinic is a perfect example.

It's estimated that poor communications and inaccurate documentation are responsible for about 46% of medical errors and 20% of adverse drug reactions. To address those problems, clinicians at the Mayo Clinic set up a "medication reconciliation" program to make sure that the medications and dosages listed in the electronic medical record (EMR) are in fact what the patients are taking.

Basically, healthcare providers tell patients coming into the outpatient clinic to bring their pill bottles into the office so that they can be checked against the EMR. Each patient is then shown a printout from the EMR that lists all the drugs they're taking, along with the dosages. The patient and clinician check that list against the actual bottles of prescriptions and over-the-counter products patients are taking. Mayo Clinic researchers say the program has reduced medication documentation discrepancies by more than 50%.

Initiatives like that one are only the tip of the iceberg. Take a look at some of the sophisticated teaching tools on Wired.md. There are easy-to-understand, colorful videos on hernia repair, appendectomies, tubal ligation, and a variety of other common procedures in non-threatening language, enhanced with "gore-free" images.

Healthwise is another vendor offering technology-based patient education tools, including one called the Healthwise Patient Education EMR Module. As you can guess, it lets clinicians access teaching materials directly from inside an EMR, so there's no need to go to a separate application. Clearly, this is not your grandfather's patient ed.

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