Computer-based patient education has become an effective method for improving patient knowledge about health and clinical outcomes. But what is the right balance between technology and patient care? The digital revolution and increased use of mobile technology have improved the educational delivery of healthcare and given rise to a new source of information: patient-generated health data (PGHD). In this blog, we explore the emergence of PGHD and how it has helped improve patient access to care and improve the lives of people living with chronic diseases.
Health Information Is Critical to Quality Patient Care
The availability of trustworthy health-related information to patients and their families is one of the main aims of patient-centered care. It also helps to increase patient safety and adherence. For example, patients who are diagnosed with early, localized breast cancer may be presented with several different types of treatment options, each with their advantages and disadvantages. To choose their best treatment option, patients need to be well informed, but where could they go to get reliable information?
Traditionally, patient education was limited through doctor or clinician explanations, nurse educators, information booklets, and audio or videotapes. However, patients often had difficulty recalling the facts enumerated by their healthcare providers and found that the conversations were not truly interactive. This is especially true for those with limited-English proficiency, who tend to rely on family members to help translate healthcare materials and conversations for them. This also presents many problems, since a child or other relative may not know the correct translations for complex medical terms or may omit parts of the conversation that they are not comfortable discussing with their family member. Similarly, audio and videotapes, as well as patient information booklets, are not interactive, which limits their effectiveness.
Patient Education Technology in the Computer Age
Studies have established that internet and computer-based programs help empower patients and increase their sense of control over their disease. These patient education technologies (PETs) offer interactive information that patients can access information at any time, making it very convenient. Patients who are well informed and involved are also more likely to cooperate and understand their chronic disease.
Today, patient-education technologies include television, videos, internet browsing, and healthcare apps for browsing different sources of information, much of which is interactive online. Interactive technology is an emerging form of healthcare that provides not only education but also entertainment to the patient based on the premise that a more-involved patient can help improve patient outcomes.
Examples of Patient Care Technologies
One example of this is the use of interactive technology with patient-education software used on the monitor in a patient’s room. The multi-lingual software has content at the fifth-grade reading level, which will help the patient and their families understand all the materials provided using a teach-back method. Mobile devices like iPads and tablets are already playing a role in disseminating patient education information. Videos, animations, and diagrams help patients to understand their illness better than words. In addition, apps are helping provide customized views to improve patient care and experience during the patient’s stay in the hospital. As knowledge is shared between healthcare providers and patients, the practice of medicine improves and helps everyone in healthcare from physicians to administrators and patients.
Patients with access to their own health history and recommendations feel empowered to take care of their health. They can educate themselves more effectively with regards to their diagnoses and prognoses as well as track their medications and symptoms from their own homes. Health informatics enables patients to become part of their own healthcare team. It is a burgeoning specialty combining information technology, communications, and healthcare which is improving patient care.
Patient-generated Health Data (PGHD)
Patient-generated health data (PGHD) are the health data created, recorded, and gathered by patients themselves to address their health concerns. These include health history, treatment history, biometric data (e.g., blood pressure), symptoms, and lifestyle choices (e.g., habits, diet, and exercise). The proliferation of smartphones, remote monitoring devices, apps, and other networks are enabling massive growth of PGHD.
Through their computer or handheld device, patients can share data collected by them and answer online questionnaires securely. Healthcare providers can send reminders to patients for submission of data securely and to follow up with patients as needed. This is especially useful in managing patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, etc. When sent securely to the healthcare provider, self-reported data or data recorded by a family member (e.g., daily diet, exercise, hydration, medication adherence, and the ability to perform activities of daily living) can be a source of much-needed information to manage a patient’s chronic condition better.
For example, a patient with diabetes can determine whether his diet is “working” by using a glucometer to monitor his blood sugar level. The patient also signs up for a patient-controlled health record and transfers the data from the glucometer via the tracker app to the healthcare provider. The app lets him add notes about his diet, compare data from the previous week and create a summary for a visit with the primary care provider (PCP). The patient can also identify erroneous data in the record and inform the PCP.
Technology is transforming healthcare in a way that can actually improve patient access and quality of care. Patient education technology has advanced considerably with the rise of smartphone use and brought with it a whole new element that can help improve patient outcomes and conversations with healthcare professionals: patient-generated healthcare data (PGHD). This is especially true in the realm of chronic disease treatments, where health informatics and PGHD gives patients ready access to information to learn more about their condition, easily find helpful information, and store it where they need it: at home or on-the-go through mobile devices. These efforts are helping to improve the efficiency of care and care coordination efforts and expanding the reach of healthcare professionals to more patients.