08 May 5 ways healthcare reform is changing patient education
To decrease the number of uninsured Americans and the costs of healthcare, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. The reforms outlined in the bill go into effect in phases through 2020, but changes are already taking place. As more consumers enter the healthcare system, patient education is evolving in five major ways.
More consumers means more patients means more patient education…especially for patients who may have limited experience, if any, with diagnostic and treatment procedures, let alone the concepts of wellness and preventive care. These consumers need help navigating the healthcare system and understanding why, when, and how to access healthcare products, services, and support. And the professionals helping these consumers need more help than ever with training programs and adherence aids.
2. More strategic
Meeting the need for more education for both patients and professionals means that organizations – pharma companies, device and diagnostic companies, health plans, hospitals, and others – must spend more, or spend more strategically, on education initiatives. Whether increasing their budget or trying to make their existing budget spread further, organizations are creating programs and tools that not only educate and motivate but also reinforce the unique positioning and attributes of the sponsoring organization.
3. More diverse
Not only more, but more diverse patients are entering the healthcare system. Diverse cultures, diverse languages, diverse education levels. Patient education is trying to keep pace. Enhancing the cultural competency of healthcare professionals and patient education programs is a steep and continuous challenge. It goes beyond the proverbial “good bedside manner” to encompass the most basic interactions with patients – in the hospital, in the physician’s office, and in follow-up after the patient has returned home with a diagnosis and recommended treatment and monitoring regimen.
4. More interactive
The patients flooding the healthcare system may have diverse cultures, languages, and education levels, but one important trait they share is their comfort with, and expectation of, health education that is interactive. Consumers of all ages are accustomed to searching for information on the web, on mobile devices, and on electronic kiosks. The concepts of monitoring your own health, chronicling your condition, and reporting your progress via phone, email, text, and other means have become commonplace and expected.
5. More innovative
Balancing promotion with education has always been a delicate act, but never more than now. We face a perfect storm: More and more patients need to be informed. More and more websites are dispensing information, some truly valuable, some dangerous. More and more organizations are confronting the challenge of supporting their strategic imperatives while helping diverse patients distinguish between fact and fiction, between evidence and opinion, and between medicine and marketing. The solutions demand a new standard of innovation. As a leading healthcare marketing agency, Bryant Brown is creating some of the most innovative programs in the history of patient education. Many are digital, but others, such as a comic strip for dialysis patients, are surprisingly “organic.” If it’s effective, cost-effective, and, of course, regulatory-compliant, anything goes.
Are you seeing more changes?
The Affordable Care Act is changing patient education in these five ways and more. Share your observations and insights: What are the biggest changes you are seeing – as a professional and as a patient?