Today, technological progress affects virtually every sphere of human activities, and many professions change with the development of technologies. Within recent decades, the landscape of nursing has evolved to a significant extent due to the introduction of various technological advancements and innovations, which brought about many discussions about different aspects of the profession, such as the role of nurses and the best ways of organizing and coordinating their work. A particularly significant cluster of such influential technologies is information systems. They did not only make nurses’ work more convenient and manageable but also revealed new levels of the quality of healthcare and new aspects of healthcare provision effectiveness and efficiency. Information systems in healthcare encompass a variety of topics, one of which is patient education technologies. Exploring academic studies on such technologies and reflecting on personal experience of encountering them can help come up with recommendations for the use of patient education technologies aimed at improving the quality of nursing care.
The concept of patient education has been evolving intensively within recent decades and has gained more recognized importance than before. In the modern world, healthcare is no longer regarded as a scope of services provided to a person who is diseased or injured. Instead, the framework of healthcare came to include various aspects of well-being, including healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, gratifying choices in everyday life, and personal happiness (Street, Gold, & Manning, 2013). Therefore, there is a very wide area now for technologies that can contribute to better patient education.
For example, modern technologies enabled the creation of disease simulations. These technologies simulate the conditions of a disease for a patient who thus receives an opportunity to experience a disease more vividly. The assumption is that organoleptic experiences will help patients understand the disease better and comprehend the content of patient education materials (Zendejas, Brydges, Wang, & Cook, 2013). Disease simulations do not actually imitate symptoms, such as pain, but they provide learners with a more appealing experience of being affected acutely or living with a disease than written or oral materials do. The appeal enriches patients’ understanding of medical conditions and strengthens their attitudes and practices such as leading healthier lifestyles and performing disease prevention activities. Studies have shown that approximately half of the patient education receivers fail to comprehend provided materials (Street et al., 2013). Simulation facilitates the more effective pursuit of learning goals, and technologies have a lot to offer in this sphere.
Another example is the creation of so-called “virtual nurses,” i.e. interactive discharge systems that deliver various kinds of information related to healthcare in general and particular courses of treatment to patients through an animated character that has conversations with patients. The use of virtual nurses has proved to reduce the costs of healthcare through saving physicians’ time: instead of requesting answers to standard questions from doctors, patients could receive the answers from virtual nurses (Jack & Bickmore, 2013). Interestingly, many research participants reported that they preferred interacting with virtual nurses to talking to physicians in many cases. Overall, animated conversational characters were found to be a powerful medium for patient education. Thoroughly designed and equipped with large databases of health-related topics, they contribute to patients’ awareness and healthcare literacy more effectively than written materials.
The active use of technological advancements and innovations in the sphere of patient education signifies a positive trend in modern healthcare—a shift to more patient-centered care (Kitson, Marshall, Bassett, & Zeitz, 2013). The very notion of patient education acknowledged that patients are not merely receivers of care but participants of the care process. Educating them is thus an integral part of ensuring their well-being. The examples above show how modern technologies manage to increase patient engagement in the process of care and recognize the role of patients in guarding their own health.
In my personal experience, I have encountered patient education information systems both as a patient and as a healthcare provider. As a patient, I was asked to go through a patient profiling computer-based procedure during my brief inpatient experience several years ago. The profiling system was basically an electronic questionnaire where I had to answer somewhat 50 questions about myself and my health. The educative part was that the system provided me with healthcare-related information based on my answers in real-time as I was filling in the questionnaire. For example, when I inputted the types of medication I was taking, the system generated a list of instructions for taking those types of medication, side effects, and other relevant information. In the end, I received a printed version of healthcare recommendations based on my profiling. I found the system convenient and helpful. The materials it provided were not complicated or overwhelming; they were concise and precise. I had them printed out with me, so I could reread them when I needed them. I did ask for some clarification from a doctor afterward, but generally, I felt like the patient education component of the patient profiling system saved me several hours of talking to physicians and provided me with a decent understanding of my treatment.
As a healthcare provider, I participated in a patient education campaign aimed at raising patients’ awareness of what they can do in terms of disease prevention. The slogan of the campaign was “Take care of yourself,” and it included providing patients with multimedia materials on healthier lifestyles and practices. Based on my observations, I can say that patients who received multimedia materials were more interested and engaged than those who had received written materials only prior to the introduction of the multimedia patient education program. I believe this is due to the nature of different media of communication. While reading mostly appeals to thinking and reasoning, visuals are capable of provoking stronger emotional responses. That is why I think that the use of technologies significantly broadens the potential of patient education for empowering patients and giving them tools for taking better care of themselves outside of hospitals.
Patient education has been playing an increasingly remarkable role in healthcare recently, as it contributes to patient engagement and recognizes the role of patients in the care process. Similar to virtually every sphere of healthcare today, patient education is influenced by technological progress. Many technologies, such as disease simulations and virtual nurses, have become available, thus taking patient education to a new level. In my practice, I hope to work with modern patient education information systems more. I believe the use of them contributes to patient satisfaction and, ultimately, to improve the quality of care. I think that nursing, despite being an ancient profession, should constantly develop and improve, and using the advantages of modern technology is exactly what fosters its development and improvement.
Jack, B., & Bickmore, T. (2013). Louise: Saving lives, cutting costs in healthcare. Web.
Kitson, A., Marshall, A., Bassett, K., & Zeitz, K. (2013). What are the core elements of patient-centred care? A narrative review and synthesis of the literature from health policy, medicine and nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 69(1), 4-15.
Street, R. L., Gold, W. R., & Manning, T. R. (2013). Health promotion and interactive technology: Theoretical applications and future directions. Abingdon-on-Thames, UK: Routledge.
Zendejas, B., Brydges, R., Wang, A. T., & Cook, D. A. (2013). Patient outcomes in simulation-based medical education: A systematic review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 28(8), 1078-1089.