Nearly Half of Patients Don’t Understand What You Say

The headline — Mall of the future: dinner, movies and a colonoscopy – really caught my attention. Obviously having a colonoscopy at the mall sounds a bit misplaced. However, the economics outlined in the article make sense. The other reason it caught my eye was the sequence: dinner, movie and a colonoscopy. Not to be gross, but anyone in the business of colonoscopies knows that having dinner first would be a very bad idea. Of course that type of snafu in the headline just goes to show how little people, not in the business, know about healthcare.
In the healthcare business our poor explanations to patients have contributed to high hospital readmission rates and general patient dissatisfaction. In fact, in patient satisfaction surveys (HCAHPS) only 52% of patients “Strongly Agree” they understood their care when they left the hospital (CMS Hospital Compare). Similarly, patients scheduled for colonoscopy don’t understand their responsibilities prior to the procedure resulting in 1 in 4 colonoscopies being unsuccessful (Inadequate Bowel Preparation). And what might be just “messy” for a gastroenterologist, can be a huge disaster for a patient. They missed a workday and the doctor might have missed a cancer. Our healthcare training of diagnosing and treating just isn’t sufficient when it comes to explaining.
While we wait for the training programs to retool, perhaps we could immediately start helping our patients with what they have clearly identified as a solution: video. Youtube reports over 4 billion views per day. With only 7 billion people on earth viewing 4 billion videos per day, it’s pretty obvious what people want. When you add to that the fact that images are processed in our brains 60,000 times faster than text, you get a win for patients and clinicians: i.e. videos make explanations faster and easier for both parties!!

Combining video with patient instructions insures that patients know their part in the process. It can also reduce no-show rates (17% down to 4%). Airlines figured this out long ago: show a video, save the stewardess while improving the message. Instead of wordy, time consuming explanations or misunderstood paper instructions, share a video with patients about their procedure and make everyone happy (Sample Video). They can watch a movie and have dinner after the colonoscopy.