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Tips to Improve Patient and Family Education

Matt Phillion, for HealthLeaders Media, February 3, 2010

Patient and family education is one of those problematic standards and requirements for improvement that boggles the mind of many hospital survey coordinators.

In the course of patient care, every patient/family interaction is an opportunity to educate, says Jodi Eisenberg, MHA, CPMSM, CPHQ, CSHA, program manager of accreditation and clinical compliance at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

The primary objective of patient education is to help patients and families understand their rights and responsibilities in their care, treatment, and services. Patients receive education and training specific to their needs and appropriate to the care, treatment, and services provided.

Eisenberg suggests incorporate patient teaching into your hands-on care. Some examples of organizational initiatives include:

  • "New" medication (first dose) monitoring (engage the patient in the process)

  • Medication administration and reconciliation (this is a great opportunity for patient teaching)

  • Advance directives (referrals to chaplains, social work or patient representative department)

  • Infection control/hand hygiene (share key points with patients as you take these actions)

Accreditation coordinators do not have to be an expert on every topic to begin teaching, says Eisenberg. Instead:

  • Ask the patient to review information and ask or write down questions. Go over the questions with the patient; answer what you know and defer other questions to clinical experts as appropriate.

  • For select topics, use teaching guides to help guide you.

  • Refer complex questions to clinical experts (e.g., advanced practice nurses and physicians)

Eisenberg recommends teaching topics by focusing on "need to know" instead of "nice to know" topics. Identify family members or significant others to involve in patient teaching.

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