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Importance of Patient Education and Health Literacy for Healthcare

February 6, 2022 - Parul Saini, Webmedy Team

Patient education is a relatively new thing within the field of health care. In the past, it consisted mainly of the transfer of knowledge and mostly biomedically based advice. Research has shown this to not be effective and sometimes counterproductive. As health care has moved away from applying a traditional paternalistic approach of 'doctor knows best' to a patient-centered care approach, patient education must be tailored to meet persons' individual needs.

There is a fine difference between health education and health literacy but it can make all the difference in the health of your patients and their ability to comply with treatment. One teaches patients about their health and ways to improve it while the other is the degree to which a patient can make appropriate health decisions. It's all part of the continuum of health education that helps patients engage in their health. Both are essential to improving outcomes.

Reasons why Patient Education and Health Literacy are Important?

  • Cost-Reduction

    The extent to which patients are educated about their health conditions is considered one of the most important aspects of chronic disease management. It shares information with the patient and brings them along the care journey in a realistic and informed manner. It can improve compliance and in the best case scenarios, can reduce rehospitalizations.

  • Prevention is Better than Cure

    We all must have heard this old saying that prevention can keep the disease under control before it worsens. For instance, by educating patients on the benefits of good nutrition and the need to avoid unhealthy diets s you may help reduce their risk of obesity. Weight gain often leads to the development of other conditions that could otherwise have been averted through patient education. This is the reason patient education is essential for faster recovery.

  • Creates Awareness

    Patient education also creates awareness. For instance, educating patients about the dangers of poor eating habits will help prevent the risk of disease. Moreover, teaching them about the importance of exercise to overall health can help reduce their risks of diseases, such as heart attack and stroke.

  • Better Decision Makings

    In addition to increasing awareness, patient education also plays an active role in decision-making. When patients are allowed to participate in decision-making, they can easily identify errors thus reducing treatment complications. Patient education is the only sure way to prevent malpractice claims.

  • Knowledge is Power

    Patients should put in mind that education is power, meaning that patient education has an active role in improving their health. It allows them to monitor their health to identify mistakes that could diminish their chances of recovery. Today, most patients don't understand the importance of advocating for their rights and only heed doctors' advice.

How does Technology help to Enhance Health Literacy?

  • The more that patients use digital health tracking devices and conduct research on the internet, the higher their health literacy.
  • Certainly, social media has its pros and cons. However, according to a study, it can play an important role in educating people about conditions that may still have a stigma attached to them, like mental health issues.
  • Wearable fitness devices give patients more information on which to act, and monitor, their health. When they have more information they can be more engaged in their health.
  • Digital health literacy also helps patients to use patient portals and navigate electronic medical records, when available to them. The more that patients are comfortable with online platforms, the more health information can be pushed to them.


Physicians must promote patient education and engagement through improvement in patients' health literacy. Health literacy is defined as the capacity to seek, understand, and act on health information. The presumption has been that low health literacy means that physician communication is poorly understood, leading to incomplete self-health management and responsibility and incomplete health care utilization. It is the responsibility of physicians to proactively enable patients to have more accessible interactions and situations that promote health and well-being. Health literacy is the primary responsibility of physicians, given that it is physicians who determine the parameters of the health interaction, including physical setting, available time, communication style, content, modes of information provided, and concepts of sound health care decision crafting and acquiescence.

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