Healthy People 2020, a nationwide health promotion and disease prevention plan, states as one of its goals, to “Use health communication strategies and health information technology (IT) to improve population health outcomes and health care quality, and to achieve health equity.”
Zeroing in in the communication aspect of this goal, let’s examine two different user groups: consumers and providers. When developing communication strategies for consumers about new programs, benefits and technologies, keep the following in mind:
• Health literacy. Health literacy is accessing, understanding and using information to make health decisions. You can include a health literacy assessment tool to determine the users reading level and matching content to that level. Emmi Solutions, a health communications company based here in Chicago, places a strong emphasis on health literacy, creating patient education programs that almost all patients can understand.
• Tailored information. Aim content and dissemination at targeted audiences to the extent you can, based on knowledge of users characteristics and behaviors.
• Multiple resources and approaches. Users respond to different learning styles. Make use of traditional tools like web pages, dictionaries and risk calculators along with newer information visualization tools and virtual reality environments. HealthEd, a patient education company based in Clark, NJ, is an example of a company that focuses on using multiple channels of communication.
In communicating to providers, keep the following in mind to increase understanding, adoption and continued use:
• Communicate early. Include providers in the planning phases in order to fully understand clinical needs and potential roadblocks. This also increases the chances of recruiting physician champions who can engage their peers early before the technology/system release.
• Physician buy-in. Highlight the successes of physician leaders in using the new technology/system and encourage peer communication among physicians on this topic.
• Continued support. Adoption is great, but mechanisms must be in place to troubleshoot and respond to emergent clinical needs.
(This blog post first appeared at chicagohealthtech.org)