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Family council can help make materials readable
Revamping written handout distribution
Written materials should be family friendly, but oversight can be difficult when institutions have a decentralized patient education program. How is this accomplished when each department determines what material is handed out to patients? Staff at Vanderbilt University Hospital and Clinics in Nashville, TN, are currently working on this process.
The first step is to make sure all documents in the system are written at a fifth-grade reading level. Therefore, experts are in the process of reviewing all written copy distributed. The informed consent documents were just completed and endorsed by the medical board. All patient education materials used within departments also will be rewritten.
The appropriate experts are selected for each writing task. The first draft of the consent forms was written by a quality consultant in the Center for Clinical Improvement. That draft was then reviewed by health literacy expert, Sunil Kripalani, MD, assistant director for the Vanderbilt Program on Clear Communication.
Once rewritten at fifth-grade level, documents go through an editorial process that includes a reading by the Patient and Family Advisory Council. To determine if the council members understand the material, they must teach back the content of each rewritten piece. This step helps to provide the patient perspective.
"The council is very committed to patient safety, and health literacy is a huge patient safety issue," says Terrell Smith, MSN, RN, director of Patient/Family Centered Care at the health care institution.
Materials are divided between the pediatric hospital advisory council, adult hospital advisory council, and the advisory council that serves the clinics.
This revision process will help create a central inventory of educational materials, so department heads will know what is being distributed throughout the system. Smith says that now, handouts on the treatment of diseases and other conditions can contain conflicting information, because each department is responsible for gathering its teaching materials.
For example, a patient who visits the diabetes clinic could receive a handout on the disease that has different instructions on when to call the doctor than the pamphlets used by staff in the internal medicine department.
To better meet patient and family members' educational needs, a health information center is planned as part of a new critical care tower that is being constructed. This center will be a clearing house for patient education materials, as well as patient education policy. A patient education coordinator will be hired to run the center.
"The reason we want to do all this is because we need to standardize how written materials look on our campus, as well as the reading level," explains Smith.
For more information on the process for revamping patient education at Vanderbilt University Hospital and Clinics or using the council to evaluate reading materials, contact:
Terrell Smith, MSN, RN, Director, Patient/Family Centered Care, Vanderbilt University Hospital and Clinics, Vanderbilt University Hospital, B-324 VUH, Nashville, TN 37232-7700. Telephone: (615) 343-5660. E-mail: Terrell.email@example.com.