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Empowering Patients: The Vital Role of Patient Education in Healthcare, with a Focus on Women’s Health

June 13, 2024

Here at Enzyme Communications, we have spent the past few months supporting the launch of a new oral contraceptive product in the UK. In the wake of this, we have been reflecting on the importance of patient education in healthcare – particularly in the field of women’s health.

In the evolving landscape of healthcare, the shift towards a patient-centred approach has brought the role of patient education to the forefront. From enhancing patient engagement in treatment decisions to facilitating informed consent, patient education plays a crucial role in influencing behaviour and improving health outcomes. This blog delves into the increasing importance of patient education, particularly in the context of women’s health, and the pivotal role it plays in ensuring comprehensive and accessible information for patients.


“Up to one third of women in the UK don’t understand the missed pill instructions in Patient Information Leaflets (PILs).”


The Need for Improved Women’s Health Education

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) in the UK has emphasised the need for enhanced patient education in women’s health. The report underscores that women across the UK seek more reliable and accessible information on various women’s health issues, including gynaecological conditions. Recognising the diverse needs of women, especially those facing digital exclusion or barriers to information access, highlights the necessity for easily digestible patient support materials beyond the conventional Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) – who actually reads these anyway?


Impact of Patient Materials on Understanding

There is little doubt of the positive impact of patient education materials on improving patient understanding of disease states and therapeutic options across various medical conditions. In the realm of women’s health, specific attention has been given to contraception. Research has revealed that a significant percentage of women prescribed oral contraceptives may not fully comprehend the PIL, indicating a need for supplementary information which is easier to understand, and supported by examples and diagrams.


“Digital exclusion – affecting groups of people who are not able to access the internet in ways that are needed to participate fully in modern society.”


Addressing Gaps in Contraceptive Education

It has been highlighted that up to one third of women do not understand missed pill instructions that accompany contraceptive pills, emphasising the necessity for additional educational materials. Recommendations include clearer missed pill guidance in the PIL, possibly through graphic-based instructions. Providing written leaflets or brochures may also improve knowledge and understanding amongst these patients.


Enhancing Contraceptive Awareness

The impact of patient education materials has been highlighted in research, revealing that the provision of leaflets, coupled with discussions with healthcare professionals, can result in improved knowledge of oral combined pills. Many women are at risk of unwanted pregnancies due to a lack of contraceptive awareness, and providing leaflets can be considered the most cost- and time-efficient approach to improving patient contraceptive education.

Patient education is the foundation of the journey towards patient-centred healthcare. In the realm of women’s health, the need for accessible and comprehensive information is undeniable. As the healthcare industry continues to prioritise patient-centric approaches, medical communications should continue to advocate for the development and use of patient education materials as they become pivotal in ensuring that patients are equipped with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

While the industry is driving towards more advanced technologies, it is worth remembering that sometimes, the best forms of patient education are simple visuals and clearer language, and that barriers to access of some digital content remain.


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