The 4 Keys to Patient Education

A local integrative medicine practice here in Chapel Hill offers regular seminars for their patients and the community. Last week, I attended one on the broad topic of integrative medicine and nutrition—a tough topic to cover in just one hour. But in addition to teaching me some new information, the seminar was beneficial in that it reinforced how challenging it can be to educate consumers about nutrition and health.

Translating often complicated science into easy-to-understand and actionable information for the layperson can be difficult. The seminar led me to reflect on how we create educational materials here at Pulse, and the four keys to effective health and wellness education that guide our efforts.

1. What is the need?

Far too often, health and wellness information is presented as universal truths applicable to anyone anywhere who wants to be healthy. The truth is that our health and wellness needs are incredibly personalized and unique. We may be seeking to simply lead a healthier life, but we may also be looking to prevent or manage a specific condition. The first goal of any health and wellness education should be to clearly and concisely define the need, providing consumers with the ability to determine if the information is relevant to them.

2. What solution is being recommended and how does it work?

Once the need is clearly defined, we want to introduce the solution—or in many cases, solutions. More importantly, we want to explain the “why” and “how” behind the solution. We call this the “biorationale” and the need for this explanation comes from the fact that once a consumer has their health awareness heightened, they want more information, not less. Providing a cogent and understandable explanation that translates complicated science into easy-to-understand language is critical to driving real and lasting behavior change.  

3.  How is the solution applied?

In other words: how much, when, with what, and so on. This key focuses on helping the consumer understand how to incorporate this solution into their daily life and the specific parameters required to achieve the desired positive health benefit. Frequently, this key involves consulting a health professional, which is why face-to-face interactions between a health professional and a consumer are a great way to share this type of education.

4. Which brand and why?

Last, but not least, we want to ensure that we are providing a specific and compelling brand recommendation that will be reinforced by the health and wellness influencer. Here we can focus on a brand’s features and benefits, and its points of differentiation, to ensure we are driving the path to purchase. Year after year for more than 17 years, health and wellness professionals have told us that their patients and clients ask for specific brand recommendations. Providing this information meets the needs of both the professional and the consumer, as I saw at the seminar last week.

Once the topic of essential fatty acids was discussed, a hand popped up from the crowd. “What does that look like… Are there brands that you would suggest?” The host of the seminar answered with a branded recommendation and explanation. As she attempted to continue her speech she was interrupted by another attendee, “Is that at [a local grocery store]? Can I get it through Amazon?”

These are the questions that you, the health and wellness influencer, are asked everyday.  Our goal is to give you the tools you need to answer them.