Office Systems and Design

One of the ways to be most effective in patient education is to view the practice setting in its totality as an educational experience for patients. From this perspective, health providers can critically examine each physical area and each staff person for the potential to contribute to patient education. For example, in the waiting area, which typically has comfortable chairs and a magazine rack or television, physicians can add nonprescriptive educational brochures, decorate the walls with posters that reinforce simple educational messages, and even play educational programs or use computerassisted instruction. Examination rooms can have posters and racks of printed materials, particularly materials that patients may hesitate to pick up while others are watching. Some practices use monthly or quarterly health themes and rotate posters and materials that relate to the theme.

Most practices need to establish some mechanism for storing, retrieving, indexing, and ordering printed materials. There is no single best way to do this. Physical systems range from racks to filing cabinets to shelves to computer-based programs that print materials on demand. Functionally, the important aspects of any system are that providers know what types of material are available, agree with their content, know how to find desired materials, periodically review existing materials for applicability and accuracy, and are able to order or produce more as stocks run low. It is often practical to delegate responsibility for many of these tasks to office personnel. Office staff may also be quite eager to participate in a patient education committee that identifies priority areas and reviews printed and other materials before they are added to the practice's resources.


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