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Education in the hospital and at home
Technology has made an impact on patient education in many ways. It has improved teaching, because staff have quicker access to educational resources. At many institutions, they can pull teaching materials off the intranet and find answers to health-related questions via the Internet, not only from web sites, but also by signing up for a listserv that focuses on their particular professional need.
"On a lot of different levels staff have better access to resources because of technology," says Louise Villejo, MPH, CHES, director of patient education at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. (For information on distributing educational materials on-line see article on p. 55.)
Technology provides more of a choice for distributing patient health information and also makes it possible for patients to obtain the information they need at the time they need it. MD Anderson has video on demand within the hospital so patients can review educational materials at their convenience. However, in the future, these same videos can be available on the Internet through streaming video so patients can refresh their memory at home.
Right now, staff at MD Anderson are working to put curriculum on-line for patients so they can view a PowerPoint presentation or video stream about their treatment, such as chemotherapy, on their home computer. Another project will make it possible for patients to access specific clinical information and education that pertains to them.
"That is where we are going. We will be more and more specific to the particular patient’s needs on the Internet and not just throw information out there," says Villejo. In that way, patients might put their vital signs in their secured web page that would trigger an alert to the doctor; or if the dietitian needed to give advice on what foods to eat to build calorie consumption, he or she could do so. (Learn how the Internet can be used to educate teens in article on p. 56.)
With the hospital stay becoming shorter and shorter and many procedures being done in outpatient clinics, technology can help educators reinforce teaching. Currently, many facilities send patients home with a video that provides the opportunity for them to review the skill they need, but the same information can be put on the Internet.
Also, health information could be made available in more convenient consumer locations, such as video rental shops. MD Anderson is working with Blockbuster Video to put information about breast cancer on videos that could be rented from its stores nationwide. "We keep having to think about ways to get information to people when they are home because they are with us for such a short period of time," says Villejo. (To learn how to distribute information via CD-ROMs, see article on p. 54.)
Guiding the informed patient
While technology has enhanced patient education, it has also created an additional challenge for patient education managers: How to meet the needs of the informed patient. Now, when patients gather information on their own, patient education managers must create ways to ensure the information seeker is not misguided.
MD Anderson offers a class titled "Discover the Internet," which teaches people to evaluate health information they find on the Internet so they know how to find quality web sites. The education department also assembled a packet of information that helps people learn how to decipher the scientific articles they find on the Internet. "It provides a good overview of things to look for," explains Villejo.
In addition, staff at the learning center bookmark web sites to aid patients in finding quality materials. The center also has a "pathfinder" sheet for several topics, such as prostate cancer, that lists videos, books, and appropriate web sites on that particular topic. "It is something to help people find their way around if they are high-information seekers and want more information," says Villejo. n
For more information about how to use technology to shape patient education, contact:
• Louise Villejo, MPH, CHES, Director of Patient Education, MD Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe, Box 21, Houston, TX 77030. Telephone: (713) 792-7128. E-mail: email@example.com.