The role of a medical assistant involves educating patients in general office information, promotion of health and wellness, injury prevention, and presurgical education. Educated patients want to be involved in treatment decisions, and by involving them, patients are more amenable to following a treatment plan.
Education can also reduce anxiety and fear patients may have for a procedure or treatment. Those educated patients will be happy customers and likelier to tell friends and family about their pleasant experience with the physician’s office.
There are a few methods to educate patients including factual, sensory, and participatory teaching. The medical assistant will have different printed and virtual educational materials to educate patients.
In addition, a physician’s office may have a general information packet to explain many of the administrative matters involved in scheduling and billing.
Finally, education of the patient by the medical assistant involves health and wellness, injury prevention, and presurgical instructions.
Patient Education Methods
Education and instruction can come in many forms including verbal, written, and demonstrative. There are different domains of learning when it comes to educating patients in a medical office, including factual, sensory, and participatory.
Using a combination of all three forms of learning can help patients get a full understanding of the instructions that pertain to a procedure or regimen.
Factual Teaching – Factual teaching informs patients of details of a procedure, surgery, or regimen so they know what is going to happen and how they should prepare. Factual information is supported by written materials for the patient to refer to after the initial conversation.
Sensory Teaching – This involves a description of the physical sensations patients may feel during the procedure. For example, patients may experience soreness or pain following a procedure that is common and not an issue. The medical assistant will want to focus on all five senses, including touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell.
Participatory Teaching – Participatory teaching involves a demonstration of methods to confirm that patients understand the treatment or procedure they will be a part of. After educating patients about the treatments or procedures they may need to do at home, it is important for the medical assistant to have the patient repeat the specifics of the treatment or procedure to confirm that they understand how to complete tasks.
Patient Educational Materials
The educational materials that a medical assistant will use to educate patients and their families can be either printed or virtual. Examples of educational materials include brochures, visual representations of a patient performing a task or doing some form of stretching, videos hosted on the physician’s website or located on YouTube, and patient resources provided by different medical organizations.
Many physicians’ offices use brochures and educational materials to explain procedures performed or to give information about specific diseases and medical conditions. Also, the use of electronic health records helps create, revise, and deliver the educational materials directly to the patient.
Information that is used to educate patients should focus on what the patient needs to know and why. It should also offer some expected results, warning signs for the patient to watch out for, problems that may occur, and contact information for the physician’s office should the patient have any questions.
The Patient Information Packet
During the first visit to a physician’s office, a medical assistant will typically educate the patient about the practices and policies of the office. By distributing an information packet, the patient will develop a level of trust with the practice and staff.
Some of the administrative matters that the patient information packet will explain include an introduction to the office and staff, the qualifications of the physician, a description of the practice, office hours, appointment scheduling, late or no-show fees for appointments, telephone policies, payment policies and late pay fees, insurance policies, and patient confidentiality statements.
Promoting Health and Wellness
Medical assistants can help promote health and wellness of their patients through education that focuses on healthy habits, protection from injury, and preventative measures to decrease the risk of disease or illness. Patient education in the physician’s office should help patients to achieve these goals.
Healthy Habits – The medical assistant, with order and guidance from the physician, can educate patients to employ proper nutrition, get regular exercise, avoid smoking and drugs, limit the amount of alcohol consumed, practice safe sex, and create a healthy work/life balance.
Preventative Measures – Patients need to know that they can reduce the risk of contracting certain illnesses and diseases by taking preventative measures. Preventative measures include health promoting behavior, screenings, and rehabilitation.
The medical assistant will want to educate patients about health promoting behavior by living a healthy lifestyle and knowing the signs and symptoms of diseases. Regular screenings are important to identify any problems while they are in their early stages, catching an illness or disease that can be rectified with minimal damage to the patient’s body.
If the patient already has an illness or disease, it is recommended that the medical assistant educate the patient about rehabilitation. The goal of rehabilitation is to maintain functionality and avoid further disability.
Patient Education Prior to Surgery
It is important for a medical assistant to properly educate a patient prior to surgery to reduce risks, prepare the patient, and create a positive outcome after surgery. This education involves preparation for the surgery and postoperative care after the surgery.
Properly educating a patient prior to surgery can also release the physician’s office from legal liability. Part of the education prior to surgery involves the patient’s signing an informed consent form for the physician.
Preoperative education can help reduce patient anxiety and fear, educate for the proper use of medication, educate about complications that may follow surgery, and improve recovery time. Educating patients about what to expect during and after surgery will allow them to prepare both physically and emotionally.
Want to learn more about patient education methods and the medical assistant’s role in a physician’s office? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field?
The Medical Assistant program at Hunter Business School prepares competent, entry-level medical assistants in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains required for professional practice.
The Medical Assistant program provides hands-on experience in a medical facility where you can foster professional relationships with real patients. Medical Assistant students spend 160 hours in an externship in a real-world medical work environment where they are supervised and taught in order to gain valuable on-the-job training.
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