Principles of Patient Education

The system of patients accepting the advice of all-knowing physicians in an unquestioning and docile manner no longer applies. Instead, physicians should strive toward a doctor-patient partnership in which the patient sees the physician (and physicians see themselves) as a health consultant. In such a role, the question becomes how to educate most effectively. Research has consistently demonstrated that patient benefits are greatest when interventions follow sound educational principles, including the following (Simons-Morton et al., 1992):

Feedback means that the patient is informed about progress toward goals and objectives.

Reinforcement refers to encouragement or rewards for patient progress.

Individualization takes into account the needs, desires, and characteristics of the patient and demands that specific goals and objectives are negotiated for each patient. Facilitation refers to materials, cues, and skill training that assist the patient in making changes.

Relevance to the learner means that the content is appropriate for an individual patient's circumstances. Multiple channels imply combined learning strategies and a team approach to education.

These principles have been incorporated into the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations for patient education and counseling shown in Table 13-1.

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