Computer-based Patient-education Program

Given the enormous financial strains on the health care system, and the time constraints of health care providers institutions are seeking to find innovative and cost effective ways of reducing tasks like patient education.  Leading health care centers, many dealing with cancer patients such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, have taken the first steps by using computer-based learning tools.  They have documented initial success in implementing an extensive computer-based education program. Their program consists of a CD-ROM education program, an internal interactive intranet site that contains education about cancer, has library resources, and Internet links, etc. for patients to access. 

The advantages are significant and health institutions everywhere are becoming involved with alternate methods of providing and reinforcing patient education.  Obvious advantages include the quality and consistency of the information provided to the patient, the ability to access education and information independently; provide training in the language of the patient, as well cost savings to the institution.  Disadvantages are the readiness and literacy of the learner, and the inability to interact with the patient at the time questions arise. Some would argue that the disadvantages are fewer than we currently experience, given the lack of caregiver time and consistency and quality of information imparted.

There is no doubt that we will continue to move forward with computer assisted patient education in much the same way as we have with our staff development and training.  Our institution is small compared to the major centers utilizing this resource for patient education.  However, we too, have embraced the practice of CD-ROM and computer based education at our Cancer Center.  Though manned by staff trained to educate patients, we have a resource center with CD’s, interactive patient education videos and an entire resource library for the patients to access.  The union of technology and patient education is upon us and, for the most part, appears to be a win-win situation.  Our challenge, moving forward, will be to find ways to reach and capture all patients, regardless of their status.

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