3 steps for an effective patient education program

Recently, my mother-in-law underwent bypass surgery. While the doctor treating her told her about how her diet should limit fried foods and spicy items for at least 6 months, he did not tell her what other complications she may experience, considering she is diabetic as well. Further, there was no counselling support provided to help her mentally cope with the surgery. A woman who has been running her household for close to 35 years, cannot simply be told to sit in a corner and let others take over. As a result her self-esteem took a beating. Further, the doctor overlooked the fact that her husband, who is older to her, may not be able to provide care for her. No alternate arrangements were discussed. A year post surgery, she discovered a hemorrhage in the eye which surfaced as a red spot in the eye, causing panic, when diagnosed.  She wasn’t mentally prepared for such a scenario and is finding it difficult to cope.

In my previous post I had written about the challenges faced by me and possibily other patients with regards to patient education that they received pre, during or post care from hsopitals and clinics. Now in my opinion these are some of the solutions

  1. Make better use of patient details – every hospital in urban India today collects patient information including some aspects of their socio-economic status. This information can be used productively to determine what kind of advice would be more suitable to a certain individual versus another. For instance, in case of innoculations, a family where the wife also earns may be in a better position to afford / appreciate optional vaccines, as compared to a family where only the husband works.


  1. Provide more information on diseases, exceptional conditions and preventive measures – As an example I would like to discuss a situation that is experienced by less than 1% of pregnant women – hyper emesis gravidarum or excessive vommitting in the first trimester. Most Indian hospitals or doctors dont educate a woman towards this condition in the assumption that she may not face this. What if a patient experiences this but does not divulge this to the doctor assuming its normal? I personally had to read up on this (advise given online by UK, US and Australian govt health agencies) and ask my doctor for a cure when i experienced this condition. Post delivery I found out that most pregnancies in India with hyper-emesis gravidarum are terminated because the woman’s body is unable to cope with the constant vommitting and resulting weight loss. It needs a strong support system to give the woman hope and unless the husband or in-laws understand this, they may not be able to provide the necessary support.


  1. Respect the patient and his/her choices – We live in a world where convenience often dominates our choices. Medicine is no different. Doctors dont hesitate to prescribe a slew of tablets when patients come knocking on their doors. The tablets prescribed are done so after taking into consideration the patient’s life style – can he afford branded drugs, does he have time to relax completely for the drug to take effect or does he have to go to the office, etc. Few doctors today tell the patient to have homemade remedies to ward off the ailment. The same inquisition needs to be extended for all kinds of treatments and consultations.


India is going through rapid changes in healthcare. In the face of poor patients not finding affordable care, providing unbiased care / patient education may seem to be a specific problem impacting the elite tax paying patient. However, with urbanization and migration of people to cities, it is a matter of time, before rural patients too start seeking proactive discussions around care.

I would also encourage you to send in your solutions, either by commenting on this post or by posting your commenting on the Facebook page.

About the author fb64bcff36a6f12130c61f9994044b10

Archana Venkat is a Marketer, new mother,  former journalist and media critic, photography and yoga enthusiast. She loves to listen to new business ideas/ inspirations. The Views expressed are personal. She is based in Bangalore and also hosts the blog straighttalkwitharch.blogspot.in


Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

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