February 24, 2011

New department to coordinate patient education materials

New department to coordinate patient education materials

In an effort to better coordinate patient education across the clinical enterprise, a new Department of Patient Education has been formed at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The department's director is Lane Stiles, previously director of Fairview Press at Fairview Health Services in Minneapolis, Minn.

Lane Stiles

Lane Stiles

“We had a lot of good people doing wonderful work for patient education, but because there was a lack of infrastructure and communication, there was a lot of overlap,” said Terrell Smith, M.S.N., R.N., director of Patient and Family Centered Care.

The need for stronger coordination around patient education first arose in 2008 when Smith became aware of a survey conducted of smoking cessation materials and found that 26 different handouts were being used at VUM C.

“That's when we realized that there were some real opportunities for collaboration and communication,” Smith said. “There are a lot of great clinicians doing the best they can to provide education to their patients. This will help them accomplish that.”

After a nationwide search for the new department's director, Smith said Stiles was the obvious choice.

“His philosophy and how he approached patient and family engagement was exactly what we were looking for. He had demonstrated that he had a vision much like we have for Vanderbilt and that he was able to carry that vision out,” she said.

Fairview Press was functioning mainly as an independent publisher until Stiles saw the opportunity to align its operations with the mission of the health system.

He centralized patient education publication at the press, created a database of patient education documents and developed readability and graphics standards.

“One of my revelations about health care was that we don't always put the patient first. I thought this was an opportunity for someone to be their voice,” Stiles said. “My primary focus is on the patient experience across the continuum. Are patients getting the information they need, when they need it, in the way they need it?”

The department has formed a Patient Education Clinical Oversight Committee, with representatives from all hospitals and diagnostic and outpatient treatment areas of VUMC's clinical enterprise.

The department is first surveying VUMC's current patient education strategies, identifying stakeholders and assessing opportunities for improvement. Eventually, Stiles envisions an infrastructure to house patient education documents and a system to manage typesetting, printing and information licenses.

There are also opportunities for technological innovation, such as mobile device apps or mini-camcorders — for example, filming a physical therapist demonstrating exercises.

Stiles helped found the Minnesota Health Literacy Partnership, a statewide effort to promote health literacy and clear communication, and was a member of a Minnesota Alliance for Patient Safety workgroup that developed a low-literacy, universal informed consent form and policy for the state of Minnesota.

“Patient education is more than just delivering information to patients. It's getting them engaged in the information and invested in managing their own health care,” Stiles said.

“I am excited to be at Vanderbilt because of Patient and Family Centered Care, a focus that is crucial to me. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming.”