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Improving Health Literacy With Digital Signage

We've written on the importance of educating patients in the waiting rooms of hospitals and physician offices but I’ve yet to talk about the real elephant in the room. The American people, on average, have little understanding of the healthcare system, process, and terminology we present to them as discharge orders, treatment information, and preventative health and wellness material.

Based on the first national adult assessment of literacy from the department of health and human services, “only about 12 percent of U.S. adults had proficient health literacy and over a third of U.S. adults have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart.”

These are highly disturbing numbers. As a nation we are moving to a value based system that is still focused on treatment rather than prevention and we’re increasingly asking doctors or educators to provide information to patients they simply can’t understand. We then ask ourselves, why aren’t these people just doing what I told them to do and staying out of the hospital? Well, it’s likely because the sheet of paper you photocopied and handed them was written in a language and at a level they could not comprehend.

We have a moral and professional responsibility to give people every chance to take the best care of themselves as possible.

That includes making sure they can understand their care instructions, when to see a doctor, where to see a doctor, and how to manage their conditions at home. There are many ways we can do this and ways we’ve already started to surround patients with information. However, all the web portals and apps in the world won’t matter if the patient doesn’t have access to the internet and/or can’t understand what’s written. We must surround the patients with educational material that is educational, engaging, and most importantly easily understood.

We know from the retail world that people remember videos better than printed materials. In 2007 the Online Publishers Association found that 80% of viewers recall a video they have seen in the past 30 days, 26% of viewers then look for more info about the product, 22% visit the product site, 15% visit the brand site, and 12% make the purchase. The healthcare world is no different, these are the same people buying clothes and televisions sitting in your waiting room and wondering your halls.

They have proven time and time again that they consume and react to certain types of media. We should take advantage of that understanding and apply it to the healthcare industry. Surround patients with video and engaging android applications, not only on the web but in person, in waiting and patient rooms, or hallways and even elevators.

Patients spend on average an hour and a half in an emergency room visit. They are surrounded by old magazines and cable televisions (that are likely showing ads for your competition by the way) when they should be surrounded by interactive kiosks and screens showing healthy living and health comprehension videos. This is an important and huge opportunity for us to impact the patient with relevant media and start to drive down over-utilization of ERs, improve order adherence, and start to get America as literate about healthcare as we are about fantasy football.

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