After each and every encounter, we would like our patients to walk away well informed. I look at some of the many ways I have tried to supplement my patient education efforts: multimedia videos in the waiting room and exam rooms, links on my website to videos that I have reviewed, printed materials in English and Spanish with pictorials, staff who are trained to reinforce information, and the presence of a family member during visits.
Explore This IssueMay 2019
Technology has enabled patients to access huge amounts of information in a short period of time, but without the
tools or knowledge to sift out the good from the bad.
An article entitled “Patients Use of the Internet for Medical Information” (J Gen Intern Med. 2002;17: 180–185) concluded that physicians “should be prepared to offer suggestions for Web-based health resources and to assist patients in evaluating the quality of medical information available on the internet.” Fortunately, the Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAOHNS) has recently introduced a patient-focused interactive website called ENThealth.org that makes much of the information offered in the office accessible online at the patient’s leisure. The site contains peer-reviewed, easy-to-understand articles and videos, and a road map to help patients to navigate many otolaryngology conditions and procedures. The website also helps patients gain better understanding of the scope of our specialty and the areas of the body that we manage. There is an area called “Conditions A–Z” that is a quick reference dictionary of otolaryngology-related conditions and treatments, and a symptom checker will soon be available. The visual modules give patients who visit the site an opportunity to really get a view of how conditions are connected in a holistic way. Patients are also able to share content from the site on social media.
An episode of the TV show “This is Us” had a scene with an exhausted surgeon standing in the waiting room with an anxious family. One family member boldly approached the surgeon and indicated that he knew from his research that one of many complications could occur with his sister, who was in the OR in preterm labor. The physician, exasperated and defensive, declared he would not address any more family members with information scoured from the internet.
We are not afforded the same options that are offered on a television show. Any discussion about the future of our specialty must include making sure our patients are informed not just adequately, but accurately. If we are prepared to move with the times and work in partnership with our patients, we can assist them in their search for accurate patient educational resources outside of our office.