Explore this issueJuly 2013
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With websites becoming a fixture in patient care, an increasing amount of patient education is being done online—and that can add to a physician’s workload.
Don’t want to try to handle online patient education on your own? Services to provide and maintain that content are becoming more sophisticated and the number of choices for physicians is expanding.
Patient-education segments of physicians’ websites typically include descriptions of illnesses, treatment options, tips for managing an illness, and suggestions for when it is time to call your doctor. Depending on the company, all of the content might be generated by the company itself, or partially by the company and partially pulled from respected sources, such as the ACR and the Arthritis Foundation.
“As the Internet has evolved, there’s a growing understanding that the doctor’s website plays an integral part in the delivery of care,” says Mark Becker, MD, a pediatrician and founder of Berkeley, Calif.–based Vivacare, a patient-education resource that is free to doctors.
“There has been a spike in patient-education resources online in recent years,” says Kathleen Romito, MD, a medical director with Healthwise, a nonprofit health-education organization based in Boise, Idaho.
“In the last five years, and especially the last two or three years, there’s been a tremendous increase in the number of clinicians using electronic education material. And, I think a lot of that goes hand in hand with the use of the electronic medical record.”
Nuts and Bolts of Online Patient Education
Bob Abrahamson, vice president of marketing at Pennsylvania-based Krames StayWell, says that generating and maintaining patient-education content might be more difficult than doctors might think.
“A lot of doctors think that they’re really good communicators, but when the rubber hits the road and they really start to create patient education on their own, it’s harder than they think and it’s going to end up taking them a lot more time than they think,” he says.
Herbert Baraf, MD, managing partner at Arthritis and Rheumatism Associates in Washington, D.C., and clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University, says he chose to start using Vivacare after he heard about it from a dermatologist colleague.
“It’s not our sole source of medical information,” he says, but “it’s fairly comprehensive and it’s vetted.”
“I don’t anticipate that our website is the beginning and end of a patient’s search about their own conditions, but I think it’s a good thing for the website to be able to present a one-stop shop where you can find what you’re looking for,” he says.