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Patient education

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Patient education

Patient education is the process by which health professionals and others impart information to patients and their caregivers that will alter their health behaviors or improve their health status.[1]

Education providers may include: physicians, physician assistants, pharmacists, registered dietitians, registered nurses, advanced practice nurses, certified athletic trainers, health librarians, hospital discharge planners, medical social workers, psychologists, disease or disability advocacy groups, special interest groups, health advocates and pharmaceutical companies.

Health education is also a tool used by managed care plans, and may include both general preventive education or health promotion and disease or condition specific education.[2]

Important elements of patient education are skill building and responsibility: patients need to know when, how, and why they need to make a lifestyle change. Group effort is equally important: each member of the patient’s health care team needs to be involved.

The value of patient education can be summarised as follows:

  • Improved understanding of medical condition, diagnosis, disease, or disability.
  • Improved understanding of methods and means to manage multiple aspects of medical condition.
  • Improved self-advocacy in deciding to act both independently from medical providers and in interdependence with them.
  • Increased Compliance – Effective communication and patient education increases patient motivation to comply.
  • Patient Outcomes – Patients more likely to respond well to their treatment plan – fewer complications.
  • Informed Consent – Patients feel you’ve provided the information they need.
  • Utilization – More effective use of medical services – fewer unnecessary phone calls and visits.
  • Satisfaction and referrals – Patients more likely to stay with your practice and refer other patients.[3]
  • Risk Management – Lower risk of malpractice when patients have realistic expectations.[4]

The competencies of a health educator include the following:[5]

  • Incorporate a personal ethic in regards to social responsibilities and services towards others.
  • Provide accurate, competent, and evidence-based care.
  • Practice preventative health care.
  • Focus on relationship-centered care with individuals and their families.
  • Incorporate the multiple determinants of health when providing care.
  • Be culturally sensitive and be open to a diverse society.
  • Use technology appropriately and effectively.
  • Be current in the field and continue to advance education.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Peter R. Koongstvedt, "The Managed Health Care Handbook," Fourth Edition, Aspen Publishers, Inc., 2001, page 788 ISBN 0-8342-1726-0
  3. ^ Krames Patient Education
  4. ^ Patient Education Institute, Research evidence
  5. ^ Bastable, Susan B. (2011). Health Professionals as Educator. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Barlett Learning, LLC. p. 6. 


  • Doak, C. C., Doak, L. G., & Root, J. H. (1996). Teaching patients with low literacy skills
  • London, F. (2009). No Time To Teach: The Essence of Patient and Family Education for Health Care Providers. Atlanta: Pritchett & Hull
  • Rankin, S. H., Stallings, K. D., & London, F. (2005). Patient Education in Health and Illness (5th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
  • Bastable, S.B, Grambet, P., Jacobs, K., Sopczyk, D.L. (2011). Health professionals as educator: Principles of teaching and learning. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.
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