Using Patient Education Materials

Patient information extends your office visit beyond the few minutes you can spend face-to-face. You can increase compliance and cooperation even more by using patient education materials in ways that help patients learn and remember more of your advice.

How to choose print materials

Try to match the complexity and diversity of your patients with the educational materials you hand out. Overall suitability is the key. Try to select print materials that contain:

  • Clear focus and goals

  • Headings and illustrations that present key concepts for busy, scanning, or low-literacy readers

  • Step-by-step instructions

  • Practical tips to improve daily living

  • A language level that matches the bulk of your patients

  • Translations if your patient population warrants it

  • Up-to-date information produced by recognized experts or authorities. Always review patient education materials yourself before giving them to patients. Consider using an objective assessment tool to evaluate the content for appropriateness and readability. Include links to online and social media material in your print materials, for patients who are comfortable using online content. Make certain all links work. If any videos are linked, be sure they are closed captioned for hearing-impaired users.

How to use materials

Patients are less likely to read a booklet if you hand it to them as they leave the office. Try to take a moment to open the material and invite their interest.

  • Highlight key concepts. To build informed consent, open the booklet or brochure and turn it to face the patient. Flip through and circle or highlight the pages most critical for them to read. Write in any notes of your own. Point out any interactive space where a patient can write in the booklet.

  • Check a patient’s understanding. Ask your patients to repeat complex explanations back to you. Watch for signs of worry or confusion in their face or body language. Restate your instructions in simpler language if needed. Always ask if they have questions or concerns about the information.

  • Involve a patient’s family. When patients are overwhelmed with difficult feelings, such as when dealing with a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease, suggest bringing in a support person to hear your instructions. The patient must approve this idea. This helps limit your need to repeat instructions. It also helps the patient feel more comfortable. And it improves the support they get at home.

  • Build on success. Increase cooperation and compliance by building on skills a patient is confident in and motivated by. For instance, a patient may be excited that a low-fat diet is lowering their cholesterol. Build on that success by explaining how exercise can lower cholesterol further.

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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