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Going digital with patient teaching

Shustack, Lisa, EdD, MSN, MSEd, RN

doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000549742.35131.e4
Department: Tech Notes

Lisa Shustack is an assistant professor at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa.

The author has disclosed no financial relationships related to this article.

THE RISE of technology in the digital age provides new opportunities for more effective patient teaching. Using a digital platform, nurses can prepare patients for discharge and contribute to positive patient outcomes while engaging patients in their plan of care in a fun, interactive way.1 Going digital with patient teaching meets the learning needs of patients who are constantly connected to the internet and adept at multitasking. And this is not limited to the younger generation—consider how many patients have smartphones. Patients of all ages, including older adults, are looking for easier, more effective ways to remain independent. This article explores various free or affordable applications (apps) that let nurses and patients choose what works best for them. Each was chosen for its reliability, efficiency, productivity, and security features. For a summary, see Appraising the apps.



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Apps for patients

  • Ella's Handwashing Adventure. Imagine working with pediatric patients and trying to teach a child who is not feeling well about the proper technique for hand washing. This free, interactive app can encourage children to wash hands and inspire improved health habits. It mixes play with learning in a fun storytelling approach to teach children why, how, and when they should wash their hands to prevent the spread of infections while at school or at home in four simple steps. The app also has a function that allows the nurse to take a picture of the child and replace Ella's face with the child's to personalize the experience. Don't worry, parents: The picture is not stored in the app.
  • mySugr Diabetes Tracker Log. Perhaps you work with patients who are struggling to manage their diabetes. The mySugr Diabetes Tracker Log app is the perfect tool for the on-the-go patient, from adolescents to older adults. The app allows users to track their weight, BP, medications, steps walked, ketones, and more. It also encourages users to adhere to their individual treatment plan with frequent reminders. This easy-to-use app simplifies daily diabetes management in an enjoyable way.
  • Visual Anatomy Lite. Are you struggling to explain complicated human anatomy to patients during pre- or postoperative teaching? The Visual Anatomy Lite app provides interactive, three-dimensional rotational models with image add-ons and highlighting features. Consider how beneficial this app would be when teaching a patient about a rotator cuff injury or an anterior cruciate ligament tear!
  • Mr. Pillster. Patient adherence to medication therapy can be an obstacle for many different reasons, including the tendency for patients to forget to take doses. Mr. Pillster is a mobile assistant that reminds patients to take their medication on time. Its medication adherence function shows patients any missed doses. The app can also track various measurements such as temperature, BP, blood glucose, and steps walked. Setting up reminders for patients to track these measurements is a great way to encourage them to manage their own healthcare.
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Apps for nurses

  • Show Me. An interactive digital whiteboard, this app allows nurses to write teaching points as well as record an entire teaching session. The recording can then be sent to the patient's email for home review. Nurses can also upload images and videos to the whiteboard teaching session, which helps make the process more interactive.
  • QR Codes. A scanned QR Code, a bar code readable by smartphones or tablets with a downloaded QR scanner application, takes the patient to a website or video that is imbedded in the QR Code. Nurses can easily create QR Codes by going to free QR Code generator websites and pasting in the URL from a website. Placing a QR Code on patient information sheets encourages patients to follow up on their learning after discharge using accurate, reputable information chosen by the nurse.
  • VoiceOver. Using a screen reader built into the operating system, VoiceOver allows an iPhone or iPad to read aloud what is written on the screen. By using VoiceOver, a visually impaired person or someone with dyslexia can have an internet page or document read aloud to them. It also provides narration and auditory descriptions of gestures and languages for users watching video.
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Getting started

With time constraints on nurses and advances in technology, the use of web-based apps and tools for patient teaching is growing in popularity. As patients become more comfortable with technology, nurses must adapt their teaching to meet each patient's preferred learning style.

Patients today prefer to go to the internet than the library. Contemporary nurses need to integrate these technologies into their practice and develop an appreciation for and acceptance of this new method of patient teaching.

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Schneider MA, Howard KA. Using technology to enhance discharge teaching and improve coping for patients after stroke. J Neurosci Nurs. 2017;49(3):152–156.
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