13 December 2017

Digital key to health literacy and self-care

Education Technology

Western Sydney’s Primary Health Network is giving doctors the keys to a digital library they can share with patients.

The WentWest PHN and the region’s local health district have tapped Healthily, a Melbourne-based producer of patient education resources on more than 100 health topics, for the large-scale initiative to promote self-care.

The phased roll-out will focus first on western Sydney’s 22 general practices taking part in the government-backed Health Care Homes trial and clinics at two major hospitals.

Eventually, it will be available to all health professionals in the region.

WentWest CEO Walter Kmet said the aim was to raise health literacy and self-care, particularly for patients with chronic conditions.

“By empowering people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to self-manage their health, we will help improved health outcomes, prevent complications and reduce avoidable hospitalisations.”

Tina Campbell, the founder of Healthily, said the digital format allowed a doctor to assemble and send a bundle of up-to-date information suited to a patient’s needs, choosing from videos, animations, text and links on the GoShare platform.

“Most important, the information is correct,” she said. “Patients with chronic health problems can become experts on their condition.”

The content, developed with peak health organisations such as Diabetes Australia and Heart Foundation, ranges from tips on how to prepare for a stay in hospital to videos in which patients recount their experiences, for instance, of managing diabetes or surviving breast cancer.

Dr Campbell, who moved into health education after a family health crisis revealed a lack of reliable information for patients and carers, said the video narratives were a powerful tool to lift patients’ confidence.

“They are all real patients,” she said, referring to the storytelling videos. “It is such a cathartic experience, patients are happy to share their story.”

A major benefit is that the families, friends and carers can use the resources to improve their understanding of a chronically ill patient’s needs, she said.

Dr Campbell said it was heartwarming to hear of cases where the GoShare platform made a big difference to people’s lives, such as an elderly, vision-impaired patient who was unable to read printed information from her doctor but could easily blow up the digital information on a screen.

The take-up in western Sydney follows a deal earlier this year in which the Western Victorian PHN secured GoShare for health professionals in its catchment area.  The roll-out to GP clinics has already commenced, to be followed by pharmacies in the region.