Rethinking the patient experience starting with patient education

Mona Ciotta

Cofounder & Director of Strategic Business Development at medudoc solutions GmbH

Rethinking the patient experience starting with patient education

22 June 2022 | 10min

Quick Takes

  • Patient education scientifically improves patient understanding, patient satisfaction, and overall adherence and compliance towards the medical treatment process

  • Challenging the status quo of existing processes is revolutionizing the way we do things, helping to maximize organizational efficiencies, and saving time and money.

  • Healthcare needs a new standard for patient education to meet new patient demands.

Clinical innovators are constantly thinking of ways to enhance the patient experience while gaining operational efficiencies. One way we can enhance patient experience is to empower patients through improved patient education.

Healthcare has long been considered a source of stress and anxiety for patients due to the complexities or lack of understanding of their treatment plans. Considerable time is spent repeatedly attempting to educate patients and loved ones, putting time pressure and stress on healthcare resources and providers. 

Today we hear from Mona Ciotta, Cofounder and Director of Business Development at medudoc, to learn how digital patient education is transforming healthcare.

The need for greater patient education 

HTWhat was the inspiration or unmet need in healthcare that led you to create medudoc?

Mona Ciotta:   Scientific studies show that the quality of patient education has a significant impact on patient health outcomes and the need for postoperative care.1 Furthermore, audio-visual patient education improves patient understanding, patient satisfaction, and overall adherence and compliance towards the medical treatment process. Unfortunately, patients are left feeling anxious and frustrated with the information material they receive as it is not patient-focused and frankly – often not intended to be exposed to patients in the first place.  The status quo often just focuses on protecting clinics against potential patient lawsuits.

Conversely, doctors must invest their valuable time in bridging the information gap starting with the basics during patient consultation and repeating information over and over again. This process is highly dependent on the time a doctor can invest in this conversation. 

Medudoc was created to help set a true standard for patient education. Our solution enables doctors to create individualized patient videos within seconds while ensuring that the content is legally compliant and tailored to patients’ needs. This approach saves time for doctors in the educational process and overall, gives patients a better feeling of empowerment.

Being able to bridge this information gap in patient education and empowering patients so they are not feeling stressed or anxious about their medical procedure, helps them to be more optimistic about the overall treatment process.

How educational videos benefit the patients as well as providers

HT: What benefits do educational videos provide to patients and doctors, and what are the organizational benefits to the clinics and hospitals over using more traditional written information?

Mona Ciotta: There are numerous benefits. For instance, we see a significant increase in patient understanding because the individual videos are not solely produced by a team of medical experts who ensure the content is medically correct. But also, psychologists and user experience designers. Ensuring a learning experience that is truly verbally and visually tailored to patients’ psychological needs.

This gives patients the opportunity to take the information home and share it with family and friends, and discuss the procedure that they’re going to have, enabling them to take a more active part in their treatment process. 

Visualizations need to be fit for patients, meaning you are not showing them real images of a live surgery or blood. The videos would be animated so that they are neutral and subtle, finding the right balance between what doctors want to show and how the information is portrayed. The goal is for patients to understand their journey without causing unnecessary stress. 

The benefit to the organization is increased process efficiencies.  Doctors can generate personalized videos easily and quickly while generating the documentation automatically. This reduces the bureaucratic burdens and the time doctors need to invest in educational consultations. 

Providing better preoperative information mitigates patients’ anxieties. They feel safer and more confident. They also feel more connected with their doctor because the information is personalized. This reduces the likelihood of getting a second opinion from another doctor or clinic. We see great potential for reducing ad hoc surgeries that can happen when patients are not satisfied with the information they receive.

Overall, this makes patients more optimistic about the procedure and allows doctors to focus on what’s important to them, which is providing the best care possible.

Informed consent to improve patient experience and outcomes

HT: What is the importance and impact of informed consent to improving patient experience and patient outcomes?

Mona Ciotta:  A few weeks ago, we had a rollout in a new clinic where we collected patient feedback from participants involved in the initial pilot phase. This patient was a tumor patient who underwent brain surgery before, but this time, he was educated with our content. For him, it was the first time he was able to share extensive information with his family and have relevant reflections about his treatment.

For the first time ever, they had the opportunity to be proactive about his behavior towards the procedure. This gave him more power in his treatment process and confidence to sign the legal papers to have the surgery. By knowing what was going to happen, he felt more empowered and more capable of making this informed decision. With the treatments he received before, he knew he needed to sign these papers, but he was not entirely sure what was going on or what was going to happen. So, the importance and the impact of informed consent is that patients are finally able to give real informed consent because they comprehend what’s going to happen to them.

Improving legal compliance for organizations

HT: How will improving the patient consent process affect legal compliance for clinics and hospitals, for example?

Mona Ciotta:  As per current legal requirements2, the status quo with the paper sheets is not entirely compliant because patients are not empowered to make an informed decision. In most cases, the whole process is rushed, and the quality of information is dependent on the doctor who is having the educational conversation with you. Of course, you cannot blame the doctor because they have limited time and need to focus on the medical affairs at hand.

So, this is more of an organizational and administration issue, which is what we are trying to improve by making the whole process easier compliant-wise. First, by ensuring that an individualization has taken place by creating a personalized patient video. Secondly, by standardizing the process of informed consent using a solution that gives patients the same quality of information based on their specific needs.

And thirdly, by improving compliance in the consent process by using automated documentation that is also time-stamped. Often when patients are suing clinics, it comes down to whether a certain document can be located, whether it has been individualized and signed. Quite often, these papers cannot be found because they get lost along the way. 3 When you are in court as a clinic, and you are unable to prove that this patient has been properly educated, then it’s a winning case for patients.

The challenge of non-tailored and non-contextual medical information 

HT: Research shows that over 50% of patients look for further information on the internet after visiting the doctor.4 What is the main reason for this in your opinion? 

Mona Ciotta:  The medical information that patients are given during their treatment process lacks patient-focused language and visuals. Furthermore, everything that’s out there is generic, such as the material that clinics hand out to patients where not everything in the material is applicable to them. Doctors just cross out information that is not relevant to the patient, which is not ideal.

When patients see this, they think “Okay, but why is this not applicable to me?” This then creates an information gap and they then choose to either discuss it with friends or family or go online to ask Google. Naturally, they get stuck in a rabbit hole where they are receiving a lot of information but can’t decipher what is relevant to them.

We see a tremendous need and desire for patients to receive personalized information and specifically validated information. When doctors can create videos tailored to patients’ needs, one can be sure that the content patients receive is validated, medically sound, and fit for patient purposes.

I personally believe that the ideal patient experience would be providing validated information for specific patient indications and risk profiles, and communicating this information on a patient-centered level.

The role of patient education in healthcare transformation

HT: Could you elaborate on healthcare moving away from medical paternalism towards a more patient-centered model and how this will impact patient education in the near future?

Mona Ciotta: The term medical paternalism has been a guiding principle of Western medicine since the time of ancient Greece. This principle is based on the idea that doctors have this intrinsic insight that should be followed. For example, patients shouldn’t ask questions and just obey their doctor because their doctor knows best. Originally this approach was defined by Hippocrates, a Greek physician, who is also credited for the Hippocratic Oath in medicine. 

He further suggested that patients should be actively kept in the dark and unaware of their full medical condition, which is a terrifying approach to medicine and the patient healthcare journey. With the rise of disruptive technologies in the 1980s and 1990s, this whole set of principles changed. New innovations bridged by technologies have led to a democratization of medicine. We all have smartphones and access to information. 

While it has its downsides of having access to all kinds of information, democratizing it has been a huge step toward empowering patients and enabling them to make better decisions regarding their treatment process. What we are talking about now is a patient-centered approach where we put patients at the heart of their healthcare journey. Patients are now encouraged to play an active part in their healthcare journey. This transformation is about eliminating the barriers of this medical paternalism age and enabling patients to make informed decisions by giving them the information they need and want.

Patients will become more demanding and will have clearer expectations of their healthcare experience. The population is getting older, and even elderly people are becoming more mobile, are getting more access to the internet, and are familiar with using technologies. Patients are demanding a different and more appropriate way of receiving medical information that fits their regular lifestyle. If I want to know something, I Google it, I watch a video about it. Why shouldn’t that be possible with my healthcare, with my procedure, with the surgery I might have to undergo? Why shouldn’t I be able to also see this or get this information in a way I’m used to from my daily experiences.

Patients are requesting the medium of information they want to have. Healthcare needs a true standard for patient education to meet new patient demands. 

Key takeaways for executives looking to improve patient education

HT: What advice would you give to executives looking to improve patient education and the informed consent process within their facilities?

Mona Ciotta:  There are four key considerations for healthcare executives when it comes to improving patient education within their facilities.

1 Find partners to help you, such as clinical partners or technical partners that can work with you to enhance patient education within your facility.
2 Challenge the status quo. Just because a process has been done a certain way for the past 60 years doesn’t mean it is a good process and that it can’t change. Many new ideas have a new approach to make the processes better and improve the experience for doctors and patients.
3 Involve all people involved in the patient journey when discussing or implementing new digital solutions. Talk to them, and ask them, “Is this good information? Is this relevant for you? Does this help you?” Check-in with patients as well as doctors and clinical personnel who are at the front line every day and ensure that the products or digital solutions being integrated are useful even if they might seem disruptive in the beginning.
4 Be open-minded to a new status quo specifically in patient education to empower patients and give doctors more freedom to focus on what’s important.

Mona Ciotta is a cofounder and Director of Strategic Business Development at medudoc. As a founding member of the company, she has steered product development from the very beginning in close cooperation with clinics and patients and is responsible for the expansion of clinical partnerships as well as the integration of the platform into clinical processes. Following renewed funding, the company’s success story continues and Mona is preparing the international market entry by the end of 2022.

References

  1. Tom K. and Phang T. (2022). PEC 105, 1878-1887. Paper available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738399122000386 [Accessed June 2022]
  2. Bundesministerium der Justiz. Website available from https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bgb/__630e.html [Accessed June 2022]
  3. Freeman G. (2018). Article available from https://www.reliasmedia.com/articles/143036-consent-process-often-executed-poorly-creating-risks-and-costs [Accessed June 2022]
  4. Wangler J. and Jansky M. (2022). Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Public Health in Europe, 177-187. Paper available from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-658-33740-7_10#citeas [Accessed June 2022]