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Educating with Online Materials

Patients today are empowered and informed. Some may come to you with information they've researched online. But as you know, it's important to select sources carefully. The quality of content is vital when choosing and using medical information from online and other media sources. Referrals to websites can't replace your personal guidance or advice.

Healthcare provider with digital tablet talking to man.

Choosing online resources

As a healthcare provider, you're committed to giving your patients information they can trust. When suggesting websites, offer those that rely on objective, independent sources of content. Don't steer them to sites built to promote a certain treatment or procedure. Refer patients to sites managed by medical associations or government agencies, such as the NIH. Look for sites with:

  • Privacy policies that are easy to find and understand

  • Clear disclosure of site ownership and financial contributions

  • A clear distinction between advertising and health information

  • Content written by reputable healthcare professionals or organizations

  • Content review dates that are clearly stated

  • Content that is reviewed by clinical peers and updated often

Using online resources

Before you recommend a website to patients, take a few minutes to review the site. Become familiar with its content, approach, and philosophy. Check any links to make sure they work and that their content is appropriate. Note any differences between what a site may advise and your own treatment practices. This way you'll be ready to answer a patient’s questions. If you suggest specific apps, be sure they also have legitimate, up-to-date, and appropriate content. Some smartphone and tablet apps can give frequent reminders and educational content in manageable amounts, as often as weekly. This helps to reinforce key teaching points.

Choosing video and audio

Short and to the point works best for video (5 to 15 minutes). Look for videos that are culturally sensitive to your patient population. If your practice involves teaching step-by-step instructions, video is very helpful. It can help you and your staff regain time spent doing repeat demonstrations. If visuals aren’t needed, such as for a relaxation tape that teaches guided imagery, audio can work just as well. It can also be less costly. Use videos that show a wide variety of people. They should include different clothing, ages, skin tones, and physical abilities.

Using video and audio

Some medical content is very personal, such as for HIV testing or sexual dysfunction. You’ll build trust and rapport by giving patients a private place for viewing these types of videos. General videos, on topics such as diet or exercise, are helpful for many patients to hear. These can be played in a waiting room. Both video and audio maximize your patient communication. They motivate patients to make difficult changes like quitting smoking or losing weight. They extend the time you and your staff can spend with patients. Be sure that videos you provide or advise have closed captions for your hearing-impaired patients. Ask patients and their families to write down questions they have about the content. Have them bring these to their next office visit.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/1/2022
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