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Patient Education and Behaviour Change?

April 27, 2014

This week on April 30th at 9pm ET, Colin Hung,#hcsmca member and co-founder of#hcldr chat will lead a discussion on patient education and opportunities to influence behaviour change or not. Colin explains.

By Colin Hung (@Colin_Hung)

Colin Hung headshot

Colin Hung

Over the past couple of weeks I have been reminded how important patient education is and how it is often a precursor to behaviour change. I have also been reminded how difficult it is to find good health information online and the role that technology can play in changing behaviours.

My journey down the path of patient education started with disbelief.

I have been fascinated by the Measles “outbreak” in the US and in BC. The sharp rise in Measles cases once again put vaccinations in the spotlight. What I found interesting (and depressing) was the lack of knowledge people had about the pros and cons of vaccines. Often the people being interviewed seemed to be basing their decision on whether or not get vaccinated on urban myth and folklore versus evidence. Frankly I was shocked that people couldn’t be bothered to look up vaccines on the Internet.

More disbelief followed when I read an eye-opening post from Dr. Brian Goldman (aka @NightShiftMD) about how many prescriptions go unfilled in Canada. In his post, Unfilled Prescriptions, Dr. Goldman quotes a study by McGill University that revealed that 31% of prescriptions went unfilled. Dr. Goldman stopped short of making recommendations, but he did ask a very poignant question: “how do we encourage more Canadians to fill their prescriptions?” In other words, how do we get people to change their healthcare behaviour?

Last week I had a business meeting with some great folks from a US non-profit organization called Healthwise ( whose sole goal is to “help people make better  health decisions.” They achieve this goal by producing education materials for both patients and providers (brochures, booklets, online tools, videos, etc.) I never imagined that an organization can be successful supplying education to patients. Clearly there was a need for it. I just never saw how significant it was.

Finally I participated in last week’s #HealthXPh tweetchat where a family physician from the Philippines talked about how his staff spend a lot of time with patients teaching them about the medication or treatment that was just prescribed before they leave the clinic – and how this reduces the need for repeat visits. Unfortunately he lacked the time and resources to do anything outside of the clinic though he wished he could.

The common thread here is that patient education can lead to behaviour change, better outcomes and less burden on the healthcare system. But what forms of patient education are effective? What is practical given the case load on already stretched physicians? What role can technology and social media play? Other than physicians and patients who else should be involved in raising the level of health literacy?

Join #hcsmca on Wednesday April 30th at 9pm Eastern (6pm Pacific) as we discuss this important topic.

  • T1. What forms of patient education have you found effective? Online text? Booklets? Videos? 1-on-1 with your doc?
  • T2. Does social media have a role in patient education? If so, what is/could be effective?
  • T3. What role can technology (apps?) play in patient education? How do you know a good one from bad one?
  • T4. Other than patients & physicians who else should be involved in raising healthcare literacy in Canada?






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