It’s not surprising that people who understand and open up to their healthcare providers are more likely to acknowledge their health problems, understand their treatment options, modify their behavior accordingly, and comply with their medication schedules. However, the following key barriers stand in the way:
- Embarrassment: Consider, for example, that up to 70% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience impaired sexual function, yet most have never discussed it with their healthcare providers, according to a study in Arthritis Care Research. Embarrassment and/or fear also compels many patients to be dishonest—with 80% of respondents to a 2018 University of Utah Health Survey admitting having lied to their doctors about diet and exercise.
- Forgetfulness: Half of patients fail to recall recommendations and treatments given by their doctors, according to a study in the online journal Plos One, while 80% forget what their doctors told them the minute they leave the office.
- Health illiteracy: Nine in 10 Americans lack the skills needed to obtain, process, and understand basic health information, adopt healthy habits, and make appropriate health decisions, says the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
One solution—turning to the power of POC patient-education materials, whether in the waiting or exam room. For instance, prepared questions in both print and digital form make it easier for patients to broach sensitive topics. In addition, seeing themselves reflected in real-life patient stories helps them feel less alone and more at ease about opening up.
And with 65% of the population thought to be visual learners, the presence of digital tools, illustrations, and diagrams can greatly increase comprehension and recall, according to a study in Current Directions in Psychological Science. Not only are patients better able to understand their health risks, but they also become more empowered to participate in shared decision-making. Significantly, the use of visual aids in the exam room appears to deepen the bonds between healthcare providers and patients.
The bottom line: Effective POC patient education can ultimately lead to increased comprehension and compliance and what matters most—better health outcomes.