Understanding Your Treatment Plan, Without Going to Medical School

If you’ve ever been confused by the medical terminology in your doctor’s treatment plan, you’re not alone.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have proficient health literacy, meaning nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease.

It’s part of why educating patients is so important to us.

“Teaching patients how to manage their health is core to who we are,” says Stephanie Billecke, Fairview’s director of patient education and communication. “I can’t imagine anything more central to our mission than that.”

Our clinicians—nurses, doctors and other members of our care teams—are passionate about educating patients and making sure they know what to do when they get home. Whether through verbal, written, video or hands-on demonstrations, we work to share the health information you need, when you need it and in a way you understand.

Say it, check it, print it

We follow a simple mantra to clearly communicate a treatment plan to our patients: say it, check it, print it.

“When we ‘say it’ we avoid or define medical jargon,” says Stephanie. “We use simple terms. We share the need-to-know information, and we don’t share the nice-to-know.”

“Check it” means we ask patients to explain what they’ve been told. If they don’t understand, it’s our responsibility to explain in a different way.

“Print it” refers to printing out treatment information for patients to keep. If a patient returns home and forgets aspects of their self-care, they can go back and find out what to do next.

Innovations in patient education

In addition to this proven best practice, we continue to explore new and different ways of teaching patients.

One new method is called the flipped classroom, where the patient receives basic information before meeting the clinician. This can happen prior to the visit, during hospitalization, or while waiting in the exam room.

This model is now used at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, where clinicians send education videos to the patient’s bedside TV to view at their convenience. It allows ample time for patients and families to process the information before speaking with the clinician. The clinician then makes sure they’ve understood the video and then, together, they go deeper into the treatment plan.

Another innovative tool we’re using is video tailored for the individual patient. The Institute for Athletic Medicine is using PTRx, which enables physical therapists to provide patients with videos of their prescribed exercises on the PTRx website. More than 56,000 of these “prescriptions” have been given since January 2015.

“There’s no magic bullet for patient education that works for everyone,” says Stephanie. “Every patient has different needs and different learning styles. That’s why it’s best to have multiple ways of teaching.”

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