The Use of mhealth App Solutions to Improve Patient Education
The World Health Organization defines therapeutic patient education[¹] as provider-organized education that is designed to enable patients to manage their condition and prevent avoidable complications while maintaining or improving their quality of life. It aims to produce a therapeutic effect that will complement all other interventions, such as pharmacological or physical therapy interventions. Patient-specific patient education is an essential part of the treatment of acute and chronic conditions. It’s known to improve certain important factors, including patients’ engagement in their own care, medication and treatment adherence, patient satisfaction levels, and treatment outcomes.
Patient education can be utilized at any point during a patient’s journey. Preoperative needs-based education can be implemented to reduce anxiety, increase satisfaction, and decrease the time patients spend in day-surgery clinics. Post-operative or post-visit education can instruct patients on their treatment plan, increasing adherence and reducing re-admissions. Patient education also helps reduce[¹] the cost of long-term care to patients and society.
Outdated patient education
Currently, most healthcare providers tend to talk to patients about their disease during a short visit rather than train them in their condition’s daily management. This method of “education” does nothing to help the patient manage their condition or follow a treatment plan. It may also lead to compilations in the future, as verbal education[²] within a consultation is quickly forgotten or reinterpreted. Patient education counters this information loss and reinterpretation by reducing the need to remember spoken instructions.
Printed educational materials have been found to be ineffective[³] in improving patient outcomes, with fewer than 50% of patients following their treatment plan correctly. The impact on patients with low health literacy levels is even more extreme, with this group 4.5-times[⁴] more likely to experience a post-surgical infection.
Patients have apparent difficulties in processing large amounts of new medical information. It is suggested that information should be “dripped” or slowly provided to the patient in easily consumable pieces, accessed from a smartphone or tablet.
mhealth app solution for patient education
Personalized patient education should be tailored to how a patient learns, the patient’s capabilities, and how they respond to information. 72.7%[⁵] of the American population uses a smartphone; this is why many healthcare organizations are looking to leverage a mhealth app solution to actively educate patients by providing them with timely information through the use of push notifications.
Results of a systematic review that aimed to measure the effects of using smartphone apps to educate patients with timely education[⁶]:
|Satisfaction with the information||Longer than one month||One message per week|
|Satisfaction with the care provided||Shorter than one month||One message per week|
|Adherence to treatment instructions||Longer than one month||One message per week|
|Medication adherence||Longer than one month||One message per week|
|Patient’s quality of life||Shorter than one month||More than one message per week|
|Physical function and pain||Shorter than one month||More than one message per week|
The effectiveness of automated patient education has been shown to increase by 9% when at least one push notification is sent per week, while the effectiveness increases by 13% when the duration of the education is shorter than one month. Providing patient education via a mhealth app solution has the highest impact on overall knowledge 100%[⁶], satisfaction with information provided 93%, medication adherence 84%, adherence to treatment instructions 75%, and clinical outcomes 74%. These positive effects of patient education are most pronounced when information is provided over a short duration (i.e., less than a month) and with a high frequency of messages to patients (i.e., once per week or more).
Healthcare organizations seeking a way to improve patient outcomes and engagement should consider leveraging a mHealth app. In particular, they should seek out one that provides patients access to a patient education library and sends timely push notifications.
- World Health Organization. (1998). World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe Copenhagen Therapeutic Patient Education Continuing Education Programmes for Health Care Providers in the Field of Prevention of Chronic Diseases Report of a WHO Working Group. [online] . World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/145294/E63674.pdf.
- ResearchGate. (n.d.). Strategies for improving the quality of verbal patient and family education: A review of the literature and creation of the EDUCATE model. [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271900748_Strategies_for_improving_the_quality_of_verbal_patient_and_family_education_A_review_of_the_literature_and_creation_of_the_EDUCATE_model
- Grudniewicz, A., Kealy, R., Rodseth, R.N., Hamid, J., Rudoler, D. and Straus, S.E. (2015). What is the effectiveness of printed educational materials on primary care physician knowledge, behaviour, and patient outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analyses. [online] Implementation Science. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26626547/
- American College of Surgeons. (n.d.). Low health literacy may be a risk factor for postoperative infection. [online] American College of Surgeons. Available at: https://www.facs.org/media/press-releases/2020/low-health-literacy-082420
- Statista. (2010). Smartphone penetration in the US 2010-2021. [online] Statista. Available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/201183/forecast-of-smartphone-penetration-in-the-us/.
- Timmers, T., Janssen, L., Kool, R.B. and Kremer, J.A. (2020). Educating Patients by Providing Timely Information Using Smartphone and Tablet Apps: Systematic Review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, [online] Journal of Medical Internet Research. Available at: https://www.jmir.org/2020/4/e17342/