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]

A Radiographer explains an x-ray to a coal miner participating in screening. Patient education can include explaining the results of diagnostic tests.


Education may be provided by any healthcare professional who has undertaken appropriate training education, education on patient communication and education is usually included in the healthcare professional's training.

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. It can also help the patients by a better lifestyle, it give them the ability to learn new information.

The value of patient education can be summarized 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.

There are many areas where patient education can improve the outcomes of treatment.

  • For example, in patients with amputations, patient education has been shown to be effective when approached from all angles by the healthcare team (nurse, primary care physician, prosthetist, physical therapist, occupational therapist etc.). Support groups have been shown to be a helpful method for dealing with depression in this population. Preoperative patient education helped patients with their decision making process by informing them of factors related to pain, limb loss, and functional restriction faced after amputation.[6]
  • In the case of arthritis, patient education was found to be administered through three methods, including individual face to face meetings with healthcare professionals, patient groups, online support programs. Category I evidence was found for individual, face to face counseling. Meeting with rheumatologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, and other healthcare providers was found to be effective in creating adherence to treatment, medication, and for improving overall patient health.[7]
  • In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, patient education has been shown as an effective non-pharmacological treatment.[8]

See also


  1. "iv. Patient Education and Counseling for Prevention". Archived from the original on April 21, 2014.
  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.
  6. Pantera, E.; Pourtier-Piotte, C.; Bensoussan, L.; Coudeyre, E. (2014). "Patient education after amputation: Systematic review and experts' opinions". Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. 57 (3): 143–158. doi:10.1016/ PMID 24726790.
  7. Zangi, Heidi A.; Ndosi, Mwidimi; Adams, Jo; Andersen, Lena; Bode, Christina; Boström, Carina; Eijk-Hustings, Yvonne van; Gossec, Laure; Korandová, Jana (2015-06-01). "EULAR recommendations for patient education for people with inflammatory arthritis". Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. 74 (6): 954–962. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2014-206807. ISSN 1468-2060. PMID 25735643.
  8. Brosseau, Lucie; Rahman, Prinon; Poitras, Stéphane; Toupin-April, Karine; Paterson, Gail; Smith, Christine; King, Judy; Casimiro, Lynn; Angelis, Gino De (2014). "A Systematic Critical Appraisal of Non-Pharmacological Management of Rheumatoid Arthritis with Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II". PLoS ONE. 9 (5): e95369. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095369. PMC 4026323. PMID 24840205.


  • 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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