Improving Digital Literacy in Hospitals

Posted by Jaimie Onasch in Social media |

INTRODUCTIONdoctor using ipad

Digital literacy is essential for communication, collaboration and advocacy in the world of healthcare. Patients are becoming more empowered, turning to the Internet and social media for medical information and using digital devices/apps to take control of their health.

Meanwhile, telemedicine and mHealth are on the rise. Yet, many hospitals are slow to incorporate emerging technologies into their systems, detaching them from the mainstream and potentially limiting the quality of care delivered by their providers.

Implementing proper training for medical staff members can help address gaps in knowledge and equip them with the skills they need to become more digitally literate. In turn, providers can help improve patient understanding of digital health tools and where to find valuable health information available online.

DIGITAL LITERACY TRAINING FOR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS

Start by communicating the role digital literacy plays in hospitals and the impact it has on doctors, nurses and other medical staff. For instance, Black Book market research reveals that many patients believe providers lack the technological prowess needed for them to trust divulging all their personal information. This could adversely affect patient-provider relationships and even the accuracy of medical records and patient care plans.

Additionally, Zebra Technologies predicts an increased use of mobile devices across multiple disciplines within hospitals. It estimates that 97 percent of bedside nurses will use mobile devices by 2022, with 98 percent of physicians and 96 percent of pharmacists adopting the technology. The study goes on to predict how clinical mobility will improve communication, reduce medical errors and patient costs and enhance overall care.

Next, it’s important to assess existing digital literacy skills to identify who needs training and in what areas. One way to do this is to create tests or polls to evaluate proficiency in subjects such as communication and collaboration (e.g. social media concepts, use of digital tools, etc.), cybersecurity and law and ethics (e.g. HIPAA privacy rule in the digital era).

You’ll likely discover varying degrees of digital literacy among your providers. Some individuals may need to improve basic device navigation skills while others may be ready to move on to more advanced topics, such as how to operate specific digital health tools and apps.

Further, certain disciplines may require additional training in certain areas. For instance, discharge nurses are more likely to encounter questions regarding online patient portals and monitoring systems, thus requiring a thorough understanding of these platforms. An interactive online curriculum allows for this type of course customization, as well as a means to track progression and completion.

ENCOURAGING DIGITAL HEALTH LITERACY AMONG PATIENTS

Similar to providers, patients have varying degrees of skills and knowledge when it comes to technology. Since most health information lives online, poor digital literacy can potentially limit a patient’s understanding of their specific conditions.

While some assessment and training can be done onsite, doctors and nurses often operate with limited time budgets and may not be able to meet the needs of every individual. Incorporating patient portal training videos or hands-on digital tutorials in discharge procedures can help. This enables providers to answer questions instead of walking patients through the entire process themselves.

Directing patients to resources like digitalliteracy.gov also can foster digital health literacy. There is a “learn the basics” tab that covers topics such as how to navigate the Internet and mobile devices, as well as a health section with tutorials about medical terminology and guides to evaluating health information. Healthfinder.gov is another valuable online resource that covers various health-related topics, including tips for managing chronic conditions.

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