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Empowering Tools

Vol. 9 •Issue 19 • Page 27
Empowering Tools

Interactive education and online resources can help foster patient-friendly care

Interactive patient education modules and Internet resources can help hospitals in their efforts to foster effective patient-centered care. These types of tools can empower patients and allow nurses to spend time on direct patient care.

"When patients are in the hospital, they often feel like they've lost a certain degree of control," said Tracy Charles, BSN, RN, a staff nurse on a med/surg progressive care unit at Baptist Medical Center Downtown, Jacksonville, FL. "The most important aspect of a [patient-centered] system is helping patients feel empowered."

Baptist Health of Northeast Florida has equipped the majority of patient rooms with an interactive, television-based system in three of its five hospitals in the region.

Essentially, the Baptist system turns the television in a patient room into a fully interactive resource. Via wireless keyboard, touch screen or other hand-held device, patients can access hospital services, review educational tools and select entertainment. The network also allows patients to submit requests, compliments or concerns and pushes the information to the appropriate person/department by pager or e-mail.

"When patients can get the information they need, they're not on the call light as much," Charles noted. "Nurses can spend more time on direct patient care."

Feedback Loop

When Charles and other nurses admit patients, they typically provide a brief review of the interactive system and its features. The nurse might encourage the patient to review certain educational videos or the physician might write the requirement on an order.

"If the doctor ordered the patient to receive diabetes education, for example, a note will pop up on my computerized task list," Charles said. "I can get the patient started on the video and give him the chance to ask questions when it's finished. The patient also can review the information as needed or share the videos with family members."

Baptist's system periodically prompts patients to complete satisfaction surveys and queries whether staff are practicing certain patient safety protocol, such as patient identifiers and hand hygiene. Another prompt allows patients to name staff members who have provided exemplary care or service.

"It's great for the nurses to hear what they're doing right. We also have the opportunity for immediate service recovery when a patient has a concern," Charles said.

Bedside Education

At Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center in Vallejo, CA, interactive bedside kiosks helped nurses on one unit streamline the patient education process.

Before the hospital purchased the equipment, manager Janice Przybylski, MBA, MSNEd, RN, and the nursing staff at the recuperation skills training center were hard-pressed to ensure certain patients received critical diabetes education. Typically, a nurse would come to the bedside to speak with the patient and family — a process prone to interruption and delay.

The patient might ask the nurse to wait until his family arrived, Przybylski said, or the nurse would have to leave the room to care for another patient who needed emergency intervention.

"We have a small group of nurses on our floor. While they understand the need for patient education, it can be a challenge when your staff is very stretched," Przybylski said. "The patient has to be ready and able to learn, and the nurse needs to have adequate time to educate the patient and family."

Take-Home Message

Now, a nurse wheels a portable kiosk into the patient's room. Via touch screen, patients complete interactive educational material at their own pace. There are questions throughout the content patients must answer before proceeding to the next section. Upon discharge, patients receive printouts of the materials and certificates documenting completion of the education.

Information includes general definitions of types 1 and 2 diabetes, management of the disease, meal planning and carbohydrate counting, use of blood glucose monitors and other pertinent information.

Online Updates

The Internet can serve as a valuable resource for updating friends and family members of a critically ill or injured patient's progress. Personal Web pages allow family to place regular updates on a patient's condition, and loved ones can leave personal messages of support.

The practice helps to disseminate information to a wide circle of people without disturbing the family or placing additional demands on hospital staff, said Sona Mehring, founder of CaringBridge, a nonprofit Web service offering personalized patient pages.

"Everyone knows someone with a serious health condition, and the strain on patients and family members can be enormous," Mehring said. "This is a way to connect family and friends during a critical illness, treatment or recovery. It helps the patient and family receive messages of support."

Personal Inspiration

Ten years ago, Mehring's close friend had a life-threatening pregnancy and delivered a baby nearly 3 months prematurely. Mehring created a Web site to keep friends and family members informed of the baby's progress. The family was able to share news of the child's death without making a series of painful phone calls.

Hundreds of hospitals nationwide connect patients and families to such services, typically offered free of charge.

"A nurse can let them know these resources are available, and it usually takes just a few minutes to establish the Web page," Mehring said.

To read how one facility made effective patient education a priority, go to

Karin Lillis is regional editor at ADVANCE.


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