When you think about patient education, what comes to mind first? Is it the information that we all need in order to make healthy lifestyle choices? Or what a patient needs to know once they’ve been diagnosed with a disease. Or is it information on a particular drug or product they need to treat a condition they have?
The answer is probably a bit different for everyone. And the fact that there are so many potential answers indicates that educating patients is a complex and layered process. For brevity’s sake, I’ll focus on patient education in terms of medical devices they need.
Historically, physicians were responsible for educating their patients in all the areas mentioned above. They recommended lifestyle choices, explained diagnoses, and outlined treatment options. When those treatment options included a medical device, the physician provided information about the product to the patient. Only in certain cases would we as a manufacturer communicate directly to the patient. For example, for something like a PICC line we might provide a patient guide (example here) because that product needs cared for after a physician has placed it. Even in those scenarios, the physician is still the one who gives the guide to the patient.
In the future, as patients become more conscious consumers of healthcare, and as physicians get busier with the increasing numbers of patients to treat, medical device manufacturers can and should play a greater role in educating patients. This isn’t meant to substitute for the communication between physician and patient, which should always be first and foremost. Instead, we can supplement with additional info and allow patients to learn from us about our devices.
We don’t expect this to happen anytime soon, nor will it be a very drastic change. However, we feel that the more quality information based on scientifically proven information we can give to patients, the better. Hopefully, more direct communication with patients could actually reduce a burden on physicians’ shoulders.
We as manufacturers have a lot to learn before we can take steps to enhance this communication channel. We’ll need to answer questions such as: What information do patients need most? What’s the best channel to deliver such information? What’s the best way for physicians, regulatory bodies, and suppliers to partner to create an informed patient population?
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David Reed is currently Vice President of Operations, Vice President of Healthcare Business Solutions for Cook Medical Incorporated. With over 30 years of life science industry expertise Dave holds an MBA from California Miramar University and serves as a member of the Indiana University Kelly School of Business Supply Chain and Global Management Academy Advisory Board.