Technology & Patient Education

Through the use of information technologies and the research performed using these technologies, nursing has started to develop newer and better methods for bringing information to patients and their families. The pattern of empirical knowledge is founded in evidence-based research and objective experience, and has been identified as the most prevalent in nursing practice.

Evidence-based practice functions as the key standard for quality in nursing practice by enhancing patient outcomes. Patient education is an important component of any organization because a knowledgeable and educated patient can dynamically participate in his own treatment, help identify errors before they occur, increase patient satisfaction and reduce the length of stay.

The purpose of patient education is to increase comprehension and participation in the self-management of healthcare needs and improve quality of life. Because of the complex management of many chronic diseases in today’s population, patient education through interactive technology becomes a vital instrument in patient’s safety and quality of care.

Patient Education Concept

Patient education is a structured, individualized and methodical process that evaluates and conveys knowledge to patients and their families that will alter their health behaviors in order to improve their health status. Patient education is a vital component for healthcare professionals because it can facilitate clinician-patient communication, promote shared decision making based on medical evidence, assist in clinical recommendations, and engage patient cooperation.

Research showed that patients that are involved in their health decisions are more likely to cooperate and understand their disease process.1 Because of this, many organizations are implementing various strategies to involve patients in care decisions. According to Carman, et al., patient participation is an attribute of a patient’s ability, skills, knowledge and motivation in managing their own healthcare while patient engagement is a method that incorporates the activation phase with interventions designed to improve a patient’s behavior about their health decisions.2

Discovery Research and Evidence

Over the years, patient education has slowly become a major concern and hospitals want to get involved in implementing better education for patients and their families. Many nurses are devoting their time to educate patients in certain illnesses and medical procedures. Numerous studies revealed that patients do not retain the information provided from nurses, and many of them walk away experiencing confusion about the information provided. Farahani et al. described several studies indicating that, when the patients are discharged from the hospital, they have received insufficient information about their diseases and follow up care.3

According to a study done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), patients with an understanding of their hospital discharge instructions are 30% less likely to be readmitted compared to patients who are lacking discharge information.4 Other important factors that contribute to inadequate patient education are language barriers and health literacy. Berkman et al. stated that low health literacy is linked to a greater use of the emergency services, increased hospitalizations, lower compliance with treatment recommendations, and higher mortality rates.5 Additionally, nurses working with a diverse cultural group encounter daily challenges in providing care for their patients. Healthcare organizations that have a large number of Spanish, Indian, and Russian patients create multiple challenges for nurses in ensuring their patients’ understanding of illnesses and the information provided.

Because nurses encounter frequent obstacles in providing successful patient education, healthcare workers will need to implement a more comprehensive patient education system that would benefit the patient populations and their families.


The biggest change in patient education is the move from a healthcare professional deciding for the patient what is best for their care, to a practice of patient empowerment where treatment decisions are made together. Traditional patient education relies on written material about disease processes, medication, medical management and self-care instruction guidelines.

Today, the use of technology – such as television, videos, the internet or other electronic devices – has revolutionized the technique in which patients are educated about their healthcare. Interactive technology is an innovative and emerging healthcare delivery model that emphasizes providing educational and entertainment resources to the patient on the premise that a more involved patient will result in a positive experience. The interactive technology delivery model is designed by interactive services and is tailored to meet the patient’s individual needs. A study by The Beryl Institute revealed that interactive technology is very efficient in communicating with patients and that the patient satisfaction increased by 42%.6

By utilizing personalized patient information, reinforced by nursing support, motivational support, and teach-back methods, the use of interactive technology will improve patient’s knowledge and understanding of their condition. One method of interactive technology is specially installed software that will show on the patient’s room television. The software contains multiple languages and the educational content is at the fifth grade level. In this way the patient and their families would be able to comprehend the materials provided. When the patient arrives in the room, his name will appear on the screen welcoming him to the hospital stay.

On the screen the patient will see the name of the clinicians that will take care of them. Then the nurse will greet the patient and, based on the patient’s diagnosis, she will schedule the teaching sessions with the patient. By involving the patient from the beginning, the patient would not be overloaded with too much information at one time. The screen is updated daily keeping the patient informed of the progress of his stay, including scheduled tests, physician visits, and an approximate time of discharge. After the nurse schedules the educational sessions, she will talk to the patient about their illness, and utilize the teach-back method to analyze what the patient retained and learned from the educational session. By asking questions to determine the retention of information given, and taking in consideration the language barriers, literacy levels, hearing impairments, and evidence of dementia or delirium, the nurse can determine if additional education is required.

Mobile Technology

The adoption of tablets as an interactive technology is an efficient method of patient education. The apps enable the presentation of patient education information in a customized view that could be significant in improving patient care and experience during the hospital stay. Nurses can perform rounds and show patients their diagnosis, including the images, on a tablet. The inclusion of images will help them to visualize what is happening with their illness.

Tablets make patient education mobile and more accessible due to the power of videos, animations and diagrams which help patients understand their illness better. Wang et al. discusses the use of tablets for patient education in cosmetic consultations. They describe how tablets are utilized for patients to show pictures before and after cosmetic procedures. The pictures help patients envision how they will look after the procedure and to see pictures of other patients recovered from their surgeries.7 The ultimate goal in utilizing tablets for patient care is to provide them with a snapshot of the clinical care information that makes their hospital stay less stressful and more engaging. Apps that are now available to many patients include hospital reference guide apps, health libraries, medication libraries, women’s health apps,8 symptom checkers, and medical history apps, to name a few.

The Future

The trends influencing today’s healthcare industry are personalization and globalization.

Besides personal tablets and centralized computer networks for patient education, patient portals are being adopted increasingly by hospitals worldwide. Initially patient portals were used by patients for scheduling, viewing medical results and messaging with clinicians. However, new features are available, including: video chat, instruction videos for pre and post-operative patients and combining all of the patient’s medical records into one location. Although interactive technology is useful for patient education, proper use and timing are as important as the information provided. Patients are not always in the best mental condition while in the hospital, and therefore education should be available before hospital admission and after discharge. This information can be made available through the patient portal, allowing the patient time to prepare for treatment or surgery and time to heal. Patient portals may also be accessed from the hospital bed at any time the patient chooses to do so by utilizing tablets or built in computer monitor.

Cooperation with team members and families is essential to optimal treatment. The adoption of a patient education system through the use of interactive technology in any organization is a significant positive change in practice which leads to an improvement in nursing quality. A knowledgeable patient has the ability to take control of their lives and can use their education to succeed in maintaining a healthier way of life. Engaging patients in their healthcare journey will create a patient experience that empowers the patient and creates a partnership between patients and healthcare providers.

Cristina Cassano is a nursing informatics specialist at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge, N.J.

1. Hibbard JH and Greene J. What the evidence shows about patient activation: better health outcomes and care experiences; Fewer data on costs. Health Affairs. 2013;32(2):207-14.
2. Carman KL, et al. Patient and family engagement: A framework for understanding the elements and developing the interventions and policies. Health Affairs. 2012;32(2):223-31.
3. Farahani AM et al. Factors influencing the patient education: A qualitative research. Iran J Nurse Midwifery Res. 2013;18(2):133-139.
4. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Educating patients before they leave the hospital reduces readmissions, emergency department visits and saves money. 2009. news/press/pr2009/redpr.htm.
5. Berkman ND, et al. Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011;155(2):97-107.
6. Dunn L. Study: Hospitals’ use of interactive technology improves patient satisfaction. 2011.
7. Wang J, et al. Expanding the Role of the iPad and Tablet Devices to Cosmetic Patient Consultations. 2012.
8. Glenn, B. Five ways hospitals are using the iPad. 2011.


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