One of the most important lessons I have learned during my time in this program is the importance of spending time with the patient to help them understand their health issues. This is most prominent in the Asthma Action Plan study where we educate asthma patients on their asthma. Most of the patients do not know what organ asthma effects or the symptoms they should expect when anticipating an asthma attack. In addition, there is a spacer that attaches to the inhaler that many asthma patients should be using. It helps push more than 70% more of the medication to the lungs instead of the medication staying in the mouth. Many patients do not own these spacers, let alone know what they are. One way to address this is to have the nurse or physician demonstrate how to properly use the inhaler and spacer for every asthma patient that comes into the ED. The 5-10 minutes spent educating these patients can help them immensely. It could help prevent future emergency room visits because they would know how to properly control their asthma. This can lower the cost of their healthcare for the patient as well as lower the costs for the hospital.
Furthermore, handing out pamphlets will not suffice. As we have learned from doing the Health Literacy study, there are so many patients that simply cannot fully understand the take-home information packets that they are given. This calls for in-person explanations.
I believe that patient education prior to discharge should be done with every patient in the emergency room. There should be less emphasis on the rush to get patients in and out of the ED as quick as possible and more time spent trying to help them understand what their condition is and how to best treat it.