Instilling patient education in your practice

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, the author discussed how doctors need to make the transition “from transactor to teacher.” It’s true – as patient engagement becomes top of mind in today’s practice, doctors must expand roles to not only treat patients, but also to teach them how to become fully involved in their own care.

So how is a doctor supposed to make this grand transition? Especially when the waiting room is packed and payment is based on volume? Well, here are three simple ways you can bring education to the forefront in your practice. 

  1. Give your patients homework. Just as you would write a prescription, write your patient a list of trusted URLs and book titles. Connect them with websites and patient-level books that describe their condition and give them coping skills.
  2. Refer them to lifestyle tutors. Develop relationships with local wellness resources and lifestyle support resources. Consider referring patients to a specific personal trainer, to attend specific classes on healthy cooking, or to attend local support groups. Don’t just speak in generalities and say “lose 10 pounds” or “go to a gym” – find out what is out there in your community, and have all the contact information on-hand.
  3. Give your students quizzes. On follow-up visits, test their knowledge. Ask them what they’ve learned about their condition. Hold them accountable for being engaged – not in a mean way, but as a reminder that they have a huge role in their own wellbeing.

Now, let’s look at this realistically -- how are you supposed to pull this off? How can you build this patient-ready knowledge resource when you have a practice to run?

The answer: Bring on your ambassadors. Empower your employees with ambassador titles. Name someone the Diabetes Ambassador, the Weight Management Ambassador, the Hip Replacement Ambassador, etc. Make it their responsibility to collect information on helpful websites, books, community groups and wellness resources. By making everyone in your office education-focused, you can easily become the practice that teaches.

Cindy Thomas Wright has practiced marketing and communications for more than 25 years. She owns a strategic marketing and communications firm, Thomas Wright Partners, that works with leaders in healthcare, industry and government to develop brands and programs that build consensus, grow business and affect change.