Healthcare providers are accustomed to hearing patient case studies in their continuing medical education/continuing education (CME/CE) programs but they rarely hear from actual patients. That is changing as accreditation organizations are recognizing the impact patient experience has on educational outcomes.
Patients’ voices can help healthcare providers (HCPs) understand the real experience of the patient, not just the disease. Sharing insights from patients about their struggles through diagnosis, treatment navigation, communication and more drives home the real experiences of the people they treat each day. In an era when providers have less and less face time with individual patients, these insights are even more crucial.
The “patient voice” is the presence of patients’ lived experiences, values and preferences as an integral part of medical education, often in the form of video testimonials. It can be incorporated into programs in any number of ways. These may be live or pre-recorded videos of a patient or their family member embedded into a panel discussion. Another established and effective approach has been to include a patient or caregiver on a panel with clinical faculty, where they can bring the unique perspective of their care journey to the discussion.
Improving Knowledge Retention
Typically, CME/CE programs have been heavy on presentation of clinical data, which is extremely valuable, but augmenting that information with the patient voice can humanize the data. Or, as Graham McMahon noted in his April 2016 NEJM editorial, “Including patients as CME speakers can engage physicians’ hearts as well as their minds and reinforce the reasons why our work matters.” Patient experiences bring data to life in a way that is meaningful and can have more staying power.
Research shows that learners tend to retain more information when it is constructed as a story than if it is presented as a series of facts. Our own internal outcomes data proves this. Outcomes from PlatformQ Health CME/CE courses reveal that those including the patient voice retain learners for 40% longer in each session compared to those without it.
Write-in comments from providers post-session have demonstrated the impact real-world patient stories can have. One provider noted, “My thanks to those people who were gracious enough to allow us to see what Rett Syndrome really looks like,” while another shared, “Having the caregiver’s contribution added a human component.”
Patient stories have more staying power than only clinical data because they are relatable. Hearing from patients can make the content more memorable.
Breaking Down Barriers
Sharing patient voice in provider education is an effective way to overcome patient/provider gaps and to help providers retain what they’ve learned. One reason patient voice is so powerful is because it affords HCPs insight into the considerations that patients and their families have during their journey. These insights may open the door to consideration of treatment approaches that can be successfully adhered to based on a better understanding of the patient’s lifestyle. For example, an HCP might have two patients with similar clinical experiences but vastly different perspectives and goals, as well as different family and financial situations that may play into their treatment decision making.
Augmenting digital education with patient voices also broadens HCPs’ understanding of what patients and their families frequently deal with beyond treatment. By producing digital education sessions that feature both provider and patient speakers, PlatformQ Health has been successful in sensitizing HCPs to the patient/caregiver journey — fostering practice changes that improve quality of care.
Fostering Shared Decision-making
There is much discussion in healthcare about the concept of shared decision-making. That starts with understanding the journey that patients go through. When HCPs leave a CME program after hearing these firsthand stories, they're more confident in communicating with patients and initiating discussions important to patients/caregivers.
In many instances the patient voice is not heard, and that can lead to lack of adherence and can lead to poor outcomes. Amplifying patient voices helps find a treatment that works well, provides good outcomes, but is also manageable for the patient/caregiver. In PlatformQ Health’s pediatric neuroblastoma program, for example, a mother spoke about her recently diagnosed teenager who was engaged with sports and didn’t want to spend time in the hospital and “feel like a cancer patient.”
At the time, the treatment being considered was an in-patient option, but there was another medical center offering a 30-minute infusion that would give her son more of a chance to be like a normal teenager. The mom stressed this option to his providers and why it would make a difference. The two treatments were comparable in efficacy. Her son was able to receive the short infusion, and by the next day he was able to return to school with little or no impact to his quality of life. This example illustrates the importance of the patient and family’s role in treatment decision-making.
Overcome Disparities in Care
Healthcare disparities are well documented and have become a growing part of the national conversation. These can occur due to a patient's age, location, income, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identity or other factors. These are highly complex issues that will not be solved overnight. Giving patients from diverse backgrounds a voice is a first step.
Including a representative set of patients in educational activities can aid providers in addressing disparities in care. By listening and learning from a wide range of patients, providers can begin to consider factors that influence each patient's well-being. This awareness can benefit providers seeking to improve their cultural competencies.
The Big Picture
The thoughtful inclusion of the patient voice in clinician education has a multifaceted impact on engaged learners. Evidence indicates that it improves knowledge retention when applied appropriately, and we’ve seen firsthand how it breaks down the barriers between what clinicians see in the practice setting and what patients experience when they go about their lives. Incorporating patients’ voices may take time and care to implement in your programs, but it is valuable for CME/CE providers to do so in order to advance the patient's role in the education of our clinician learners.
Learn more about incorporating patient voice in CME.
Tariqa Ackbarali is the senior medical director for oncology at PlatformQ Health. She has been in the CME industry for more than 12 years, primarily focused in the area of oncology/hematology. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in health sciences from Nova Southeastern University and received both her B.S. majoring in psychology and minoring in biology and her M.S. in clinical psychology from Barry University. Prior to joining the Institute for Medical Education and Research (IMER) in 2009, she completed a practicum and internship at the Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, a medical home setting providing counseling and testing services to children and parents. Dr. Ackbarali served the medical education industry at Rockpointe in 2012 and then PRIME Education in 2017 where she was responsible for oncology/hematology educational program growth, including execution of multiple quality improvement programs. Dr. Ackbarali continues her passion for creating tangible impact through education at PlatformQ Health, where she educates both clinical teams and patients/caregivers.
Dave Clausen, CHCP, is the senior vice president of digital education at PlatformQ Health, the leading provider of live, interactive online education for healthcare professionals, patients and caregivers. In this role, he focuses on building relationships with the essential stakeholders in the education of these audiences, inclusive of patient advocacy groups, medical societies and life sciences companies. A 22-year veteran in medical education, Dave has been deeply involved with incorporating the patient voice in professional education through educational design and partnerships. He was an early volunteer with the NC-CME, graduating with the first class of CCMEPs (now CHCPs) in 2008, and later serving as chair of the NC-CME’s Marketing Committee and member of its Advisory Board. With parts of his career spent in roles involving data analytics, Dave is also keenly interested in exploring how improved assessment methodologies in education can advance the quality of our work for the benefit of all stakeholders.