98% of Patients Cannot Recall the Risks Associated with Their Surgery

getty_rf_photo_of_doctor_and_patient_talkingThat statistic came from a presentation at 32nd Annual Congress, European Hernia Society, Istanbul, Turkey by Mohammed Uzzaman and his team regarding side effects of hernia surgery.  How scary!  Patients do not understand the risks associated with their OWN surgery.

Patient understanding is a key component in a patient’s health.  If they do not understand the risks associated with their behaviors, then they are never going to change.  If they do not understand the side effects of their procedures, how will they know if they are progressing properly?

The two main issues with the lack of patient understanding are:

  1. The delivery of the message
  2. The timing of the message

Medical professionals in general are excellent at diagnosing and fixing issues.  Their skill at explaining the issue though tends to be lacking.  Medical professionals tend to speak above their patient’s ability to understand.  They tend to use jargon and analogies that are not relatable to the patient.  They minimize the risks and maximize the rewards.

When the patients are told these risks also does not help.  Most patients are informed at the time of diagnosis and/or right before their surgery.  Their heads are spinning, their minds are racing, and the last thing they are hearing is what could go wrong.  Think about when you are harried and stressed out, do you remember every detail of a conversation?  I didn’t think so.

But what can you do to get your patients to understand their procedures, lifestyle modifications, or health risks?  Here are three simple changes that can help:

  1. Bulk up the Patient Education portion of your website.  Turn your website into a true patient resource with all of the risks, side effects, surgical options, etc. for each disease state that you treat at your patient’s fingertips.  This information does not need to be “in the public domain” and can be hidden behind a portal.
  2. Engage your patients via social media and email.  Send and post important information on surgical procedures and lifestyle modifications directly to your patients.  Send them videos of you explaining issues in plain speak.  This will enable you to bond with your patients and allow them to watch the videos on their timeframe.
  3. Promote Patient Education in your waiting, exam and in patient rooms.  Customized, digital patient education from a company like Halo Health is very effective in explaining disease states, procedures, side effects, lifestyle modifications, and aftercare instructions.  These systems run on TV monitors with video and audio that make the patients think they are watching “real TV”.  The information is tailored to your office specialties and focus only on topics you want your patients to see.  There are no advertisers or sponsors on the screen- only you and your message.

Help your patients understand the risks, rewards and side effects of their disease states.  It is the difference between a positive outcome and a not so great one.

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