Developing virtual education to benefit patients

Learning you have a disease or difficult to treat illness at a hospital or a doctor’s office can stop you in your tracks. With so much information to process, it might be difficult to walk away remembering everything you need to know to either keep your sickness at bay or treat it properly.

That’s why members of the care team go over directions for treatment verbally with their patients, and send them home with a packet of information they can turn to when needed. Some clinicians within OSF HealthCare believe there is a better way to do this.

Working with the Medical Visualization (MedVis) team at the Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center, patient education for certain illnesses is being simplified and turned into interactive applications that can be accessed on a mobile device.

Anticoagulation guide app

Anticoagulants, better known as blood thinners, are high risk medications that if taken improperly can lead to harm and a trip back to the hospital. As of now, pharmacists and dieticians spend about 15 minutes each going over dosing requirements and diet guidelines for every inpatient prescribed a blood thinner.

It’s estimated more than 270 hours are spent every month on these education efforts. Directions are then supplemented with take home materials that are 16 pages long.

“We were asked to create a virtual experience that could match the effectiveness of verbal conversations, but help educate patients in a more convenient way that allows them to revisit the guidance anytime they want,” said Kyle Formella, director of Medical Visualization at Jump. “Working closely with our clinical experts, we built an avatar-based app that goes over everything from the importance of sticking to a regimen and dietary recommendations to what to do if excessive bleeding occurs.”

The app includes interactive knowledge checks to ensure individuals understand the material. Results can then be shared with both pharmacists and dieticians to determine where further education is needed. Due to growing interest in the app, MedVis adapted the experience for outpatient clinics, such as the doctor’s office. The tool is being evaluated and will likely be available on app stores this fall.

Ventilator guide app

You’ve heard a lot about patients with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) being placed on ventilators to help them breathe. But did you know there are many individuals, including children, sent home with these medical devices to use part-time, long-term or permanently? With that comes the need for family members or other caregivers to learn how to care for someone with a ventilator in the home.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information people have to understand before safely using this medical equipment on their own. Members of the care team go over this education with family members before their loved ones are released from a hospital or other care facility. Caregivers are also given a set of instructions to revert back to when needed.

In collaboration with Bradley University, MedVis built an app to help train parents and other caregivers how to properly set up a portable ventilator, use it and what to do in the event of an alarm.

“The training parents and caregivers receive comes from clinicians, often in a hospital or transitional care environment. We know that stress can impact how we learn, and can make it difficult to retain that knowledge,” said Formella. “We hope our app will be a resource for these individuals when they have any questions, accessible from anywhere at any time. The goal is to reduce mistakes that can happen with the operation of these devices.”

The ventilator guide app is undergoing evaluation and is planned for beta testing this fall.

Reducing stress among patients and their caregivers

Being discharged from a hospital or learning about a diagnosis from your primary care provider can be overwhelming. Many questions can swirl around your head for what’s next. What types of medications do I have to take? Do I have to change my diet? How do I operate this medical equipment I have to take home? It’s a lot, and while members of the care team do everything they can to educate patients on next steps, it can be difficult to retain that information.

OSF HealthCare hopes to relieve some of that stress people can feel through the development of new types of patient education. This doesn’t mean individuals won’t get to discuss instructions with their physician, advanced practice provider or nurse first. It just means they will have an easy way to refresh their memories when needed, leading to better patient experience and outcomes.  
Categories: Bradley University (BU), Education, Education, Innovation, Medical Visualization