nurse consult
HealthOctober 20, 2015

The value of education for patient outcomes

It’s no secret that quality patient care is tied to a well-educated nursing workforce. In fact, research has shown that lower mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive patient outcomes are all related to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels. In May 2014, The Lancet published a study titled “Nurse Staffing and Education and Hospital Mortality in Nine European Countries: A Retrospective Observational Study.” The study found that patients experiencing complications after surgery are more likely to survive if treated in hospitals with adequate staffing and higher numbers of baccalaureate-prepared nurses.

Patient education at the core

So, we know that nursing education positively impacts patient outcomes, but what about patient education? At the core of health care reform is the call to have educated patients interacting with responsive health care teams. For education to be successful, patients need to be engaged to understand the benefits of health education. Research shows that when patients are engaged in their health care, there are significant improvements in health outcomes, patient safety, and health care quality. Moreover, patient engagement also leads to lower health care costs.

What is patient engagement? Patient engagement combines the patient’s ability, knowledge, skills, and willingness with interventions that are designed to increase positive patient behavior – behavior that ultimately improves health and patient outcomes.

In the past, patient education consisted of discharge planning and limited print materials distributed by nursing staff. Since that time, patient education has advanced significantly with the advent of interactive patient engagement solutions. New information technology (IT) solutions are used not only to improve patient education concerning their conditions and encourage greater involvement in care decisions, but to inform patients about community health programs, address health literacy challenges, provide communication access with health care team members, support treatment strategies, and support individualized discharge planning. New IT solutions are also being used to educate patients about ways to change health behaviors and take better care of themselves. For example, fitness apps are used to measure the amount of exercise a patient gets each day. Nutrition apps help patients track their nutrition. Special devices track trends in heart rate and blood pressure.

Interactive technologies allow health care facilities to educate patients about items such as advanced directives, nutrition, chronic care, and safety equipment. For example, patients can log into the system to order their meals and learn about their dietary restrictions at the same time. Patients can also access multi-cultural health libraries that contain educational videos about their conditions.

Face-to-face

As you can see there have been many advances that enhance patient education and engagement. However, interactive technologies and IT solutions aren’t the only elements necessary to help educate patients about their health. Individualized education delivered face-to-face by health care team members is also valuable. Patient education using teach-back methods to evaluate education and comprehension, combined with interactive care, is an ideal method for identifying patient knowledge gaps that can then be a focus for review.

Power in knowledge

So as the adage goes, there is power in knowledge. By empowering patients with education and knowledge about their health, you can improve patient outcomes, patient safety, and health care quality, and at the same time improve patient satisfaction. Patient education has been found to positively affect Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers scores, especially surrounding medication administration and communication with staff. So patient education not only benefits patients but the health care facility as well.

What innovative practices has your facility used to engage and educate your patients? What improvements have you seen since implementing these strategies? What have you learned that could help others?

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