Incorporating new technologies is a must for ODs to improve patient communication and education. Multiple platforms of communication are needed in the 21st century to communicate and educate patients of very different backgrounds. Internet-based communication has now become the primary modality for information exchange.1
Medicine and optometry must adjust its communication techniques and include technology into the clinical setting. Technology has enhanced the way in which health professionals communicate with each other and their patients. An excellent example is the National Eye Institute’s National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) website (https://nei.nih.gov/nehep/). The NEHEP website allows patients to quickly find information about various eye ailments from glaucoma to diabetic eye disease.
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ODs and other healthcare providers have taken a paternalistic view toward patient education. We have spoken with our patients and given them written information and brochures describing their diagnoses. We have also had our front desk staff, technicians, and opticians reinforce our discussions. If patients did not understand or follow our directives, we would argue that we did everything possible.
Did we really do everything to communicate with our patients or merely contribute to information overload?
Future patient communication and education should be more interactive—ensuring that patients understand their diagnoses. For patients to become better educated when they leave our chairs, ODs should utilize technology that improves the quality of our interaction with patients. New patient education websites and mobile apps are evolving. One example is the Eye Inquire website (http://www.eyeinquire.com) which offers patients a chance to search eye conditions by signs, symptoms, statistics, causes, treatments, etc.
The contemporary field of medical informatics applies informatics theory and techniques to all areas of patient care, improving clinical decision-making, integrating patient education, and enabling clinical and scientific research.
An outstanding example of an organization that is a pioneer in medical informatics is the Mayo Clinic (http://www.mayoclinic.org/)site that focuses on transforming health care through innovative informatics and analytics.