Education of the patient or the family can make a contribution to every medical interaction. Every recent medical school graduate is familiar with the SOAP note format (i.e., subjective data, objective data, assessment, and plan) for documenting a medical encounter. Adding education (E) to the plan by using a SOAPE note serves as a reminder to educate patients and to document the education.

All excellent family physicians are also excellent teachers of patients. Such physicians typically incorporate education continuously during the interaction with the patient, not as a separate step. When taking a history, the physician can assess attitudes, knowledge, and skills. When performing an examination, the physician can instruct about the purpose of the examination and the meaning of findings. When discussing a diagnosis, the physician can share its meaning and the process of decision making in approachable terminology. When suggesting therapy, the physician can assess understanding, willingness, and barriers to implementation.

Although patient education may largely occur in the context of individual provider-patient interactions, there are many additional opportunities to become involved in health education. Health education is a regular part of curricula in schools, may be found in workplace programs in many communities, and is routinely featured in the mass media. Family physicians who have become involved in health education can have greater impact from the ripple effects of networking in their community. Involvement can begin with small, manageable actions. Physicians can offer to come for question-and-answer sessions during health classes, offer to be a consultant to the school board regarding health curricula, or become a team physician for junior high or high school teams. Media involvement can come from volunteering to comment on current issues in health for local radio and television stations or from writing a regular health column for the local newspaper.

Within their own practice, many family physicians struggle to include all the education they want to provide. There are a variety of creative solutions to this problem. The physician can expand services to include group classes for common topics such as smoking cessation, perinatal care, and healthy diet. Group visits can be done for patients with chronic problems that need regular monitoring, such as diabetes and hypertension (Loney-Hutchinson et al., 2009). Also, patient education can be made the responsibility of the entire practice, involving office nurses, medical assistants, and receptionists as a team. Larger practices may have access to dieticians or pharmacists.

It is important not to overlook existing resources in the community that can be used to expand what is offered in the physician's office. These include national and local disease-specific support organizations such as the American Diabetes Association (ADA), American Heart Association (AHA), American Cancer Society (ACS), American Lung Association, Weight Watchers, and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Educational resources in the form of groups or short courses may also be sponsored by local libraries, YMCA chapters, churches, or other community organizations.

Diabetes 2

Diabetes 2

Diabetes is a disease that affects the way your body uses food. Normally, your body converts sugars, starches and other foods into a form of sugar called glucose. Your body uses glucose for fuel. The cells receive the glucose through the bloodstream. They then use insulin a hormone made by the pancreas to absorb the glucose, convert it into energy, and either use it or store it for later use. Learn more...

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