We get periodic calls from hospitals wanting an interactive patient education system. They generally mean something like the hotels have and want to include meal ordering, movies and all sorts of activities. On the surface this is a reasonable request but it comes with obstacles that the education staff should think about before deciding to go this route. It’s also important to drill down into the reason behind the request.
- Interactivity can be complicated for people with limited computer familiarity, education or language barriers. Think about the remote controls that come with today’s flat screen TV’s. They have over 50 buttons and are complicated for healthy users. Are the majority of your patients in a position to deal with any level of complexity in their current situation?
- Interactivity adds cost. A common reason for wanting an interactive patient education system is to move some mundane, repetitive tasks to the patient to save staff time and money. The problem with this thinking is that it generally adds additional responsibility to staff. For an interactive patient education system to be truly interactive there has to be a way for each television to talk independently to the main system. This means adding additional hardware in each room which adds cost, additional maintenance and additional support issues that fall to bio-med, IT and your nurses. It also potentially removes the responsibility for educating patients away from the nurses and forces the patient to rely on themselves or the system alone. This won’t solve the patient education problems hospitals currently face. A patient education system is a tool and should not be considered the educator.
- Interactivity is not always familiar. Let’s refer back to the different remotes you have in your home. They are not the same. Some are big, some small. Some have 15 buttons, some have 40 or more. Remember going through the set up screens on these TV’s? Did you find them easy to navigate? Probably not.
- Interactivity adds time. How often have you used your mouse to click through a software program and thought there had to be a shorter way to get there? Have you ever tried to order pizza on-line? What about reserving a rental car or hotel online. These processes take many multiple steps and if you do it wrong you have to start over.
- Think about your patients. How many are older than 65 and don’t own a computer? How many of them don’t feel well? How many don’t speak English well?
- Think about the telephone. It’s familiar. It’s simple. Everyone can use one without training. The buttons are always the same even if the phone is different. And, it has an added benefit…it can respond to the patient in their language which is a big benefit if you don’t have enough translators to go around.
Don’t get me wrong, interactivity is a great thing. I love it but I’m a bit of a nerd and like the technology. I don’t mind fighting with the remote to make it do what I want however your patients may not. But there are different levels of interactivity and the key is to find a solution that is easy to use and matches up well with your patient population and your staff. If patients find a system hard to use or complicated in any way they won’t use it. If they won’t use it, it’s money down the drain and extra work on your nursing staff.
Does this mean that you should never consider interactivity with your interactive patient education system? No, it’s possible complex interactivity may be right for your facility, we just want you to think about what you really want in a system, why you want it and what impact it may have on your staff and patients.
Photo credit to: Flash.Pro