Hospitals are in a never-ending battle to lower patient readmission rates. By combating these rates with proper policies and hardware designed to mitigate spreading infection such as antimicrobial medical computer systems, facilities can better treat patients while also avoiding financial penalizations from the CMS. We’ve discussed before the importance of hospital readmission rates and why special attention needs to be placed on lowering them, but what are the actual best practices for doing so? That’s a topic that begins by identifying some of the most common reasons for patient readmission.

Fortunately, the FDA has given us a little insight into one of those reasons. In a resource posted on their site, they mention that 50% of patients don’t take medication as prescribed. Doesn’t sound very surprising, right? If a patient isn’t following doctors’ orders, it’s no wonder they get readmitted. The issue, however, isn’t one of patients being disobedient. Rather, it’s an issue of the average patient struggling to understand post-discharge care instructions because of their lack of clarity. Studies such as the one performed by the American Journal of Surgery illustrate this fact, explaining that only 24% of patients have the reading skills necessary to comprehend their dismissal summary.

The answers to the questions asked above suddenly become more clear. Lack of understanding is causing patients to return for treatment. This means more attention needs to be placed on how patient education materials and instructions are written. 

Plan Health Education Materials for Low Literacy

Planning to create more accessible patient education materials starts by first understanding the average patient’s reading comprehension level. 

According to a rather comprehensive study, the US National Library of Medicine was able to surmise that most patient education materials available online are often written at the college reading level, making them unapproachable for the vast majority of patients that read at a 7th or 8th-grade level.

How do You Write for an 8th Grade Reading Level

Catering to an 8th-grade reading level can start by writing in a more simple manner. Swapping out complex words for one-syllable synonyms and writing in short sentences instead of building on points unnecessarily can both go a long way for the readability of your patient education materials. 

The goal here isn’t to omit information or even to write for a “less educated” clientele. Rather, by writing in this style, you’re making more information available in fewer words, meaning readers are more likely to see value in these educational materials instead of sifting through a bunch of useless information and missing something important in the process. 

Other mediums aside from writing can also help you reach this goal for your patient education resources. Graphs, pictures, illustrations, and infographics are all space-conscious tools that can get across plenty of information without bogging down a patient’s attention span.

Tools Needed for Creating/Administering Patient Education Materials

Now that we know who we’re targeting with these educational materials, what tools can you employ to create and share these patient-facing resources?

Bedside Tablets

Mobile devices such as tablets are a prolific part of several patients’ lives, making bedside medical tablets a very approachable, digestible means of administering patient education materials. And since most patient education materials are created in PDF formats that are easily read by most mobile devices, sharing them to the bedside tablet a patient has access to is simple. By sending these materials to patients’ bedsides, they can be educated on treatments, informed on how they can prepare for procedures, or even simply learn more about whatever condition they’re afflicted with.

Using technology such as this and focusing on patient engagement strategies that make patients an active player in their healthcare journey can go a long way towards higher patient satisfaction rates and better adherence to discharge instructions, lowering readmissions in the process.

Naturally, you’ll want to make sure these devices are built with your facility in mind and mitigate patient safety risks with features such as antimicrobial casings and IEC60601-1 certifications.     

Docking Workstations

Workstation innovation is constantly evolving in the healthcare space. One need just look at portable medical cart computers and the above-mentioned medical tablet to observe this phenomenon. Tablet workstations, however, have one more interesting use case for providers interested in more effectively sharing patient education materials. 

Physicians with access to a medical tablet and a docking station can seamlessly slide in tablets loaded up with educational materials and throw them up on a large screen inside a patient’s room in order to share that information. From there, patients and physicians can go through the information together, ask questions, and truly ensure the patient has a firm understanding of their post-discharge instructions before the physician picks up their tablet and moves on. Providers can then send these documents to their patients’ devices once they’re done. The Carolina Orthopedic and Neurosurgical Associates clinics in South Carolina is one such facility that saw this implementation through with great results.

Design Tools

As far as actually creating patient education materials, many physicians struggle to build engaging, digestible resources because they aren’t trained to do so. Doctors and nurses aren’t graphic designers and often aren’t equipped to create completely customized graphs and charts much fewer ones that are easy to understand. Thankfully, beginner-friendly tools are out there and can help staff create engaging understandable discharge instructions.

Tools like Canva are incredibly user-friendly, are browser-based (meaning no downloads), filled with graphics and graph-making tools, and are completely free. Any staff member can be quickly trained on the tool and can begin creating education materials that patients can use during and after treatment, hopefully giving them the knowledge and education needed to make better decisions that’ll keep them from being readmitted.

Reading Level Tests

Much like Canva, there are countless reading level analyzer tools online for those looking to make their patient education materials more accessible. It’s a simple recommendation, but the importance of simplifying the wording of instructions given to patients can’t be overstated. Physicians and nurses are raised and trained on hundreds, if not thousands, of complex conditions, anatomical vocabulary, and treatment names. After years of doing so, it becomes easy to forget what the average joe can have difficulty understanding, hence, the increasing number of patient readmissions and lack of understanding. 

Online readability tools such as Hemingway App and Readability Formulas make checking the reading level of your patient education materials as simple as copying and pasting into a site. From there, if the reading level is too high, these tools can make recommendations on how you can lower its complexity.

Creating Patient Education Materials Requires Understanding Your Patients

Treatment doesn’t end after a patient is discharged. Everything from medication to post-care plays a role in whether or not a patient returns for readmission. And proper education materials, ones that are tailored for the average patient, are paramount in making sure these post-discharge instructions are followed. For more information on tools you can use to begin creating more effective patient education materials, contact an expert from Cybernet today.