The Importance of Visuals in Patient Education

Posted Sep 11, 2023 under:

Using Images as a Tool

Studies have shown that the use of images in combination with text or personal conversation can help improve comprehension and understanding of difficult topics. This can be especially useful for physicians attempting to explain complex medical topics to patients.

Doctor explaining graph to patient

Improving Comprehension

Using visuals in patient education can help patients comprehend complex medical terminology and better understand care plans, diagnoses, and more.

As a physician, it is critical to ensure that your patients comprehend vital information relating to their health. However, for those uneducated in medical terminology, understanding words and phrases can lead to more questions than answers. To help alleviate confusion and avoid additional issues, physicians should work to incorporate visual elements into their discussions with patients.

Visual tools have evolved along with the medical field. Older, larger plastic diagrams or replicas have given way to more advanced digital components and renderings, allowing for an added layer of depth and understanding in the exam room. Along with precise digital models, the use of paper flyers and informative booklets allows patients to take the information home with them to conduct additional research and improve understanding in the comfort of their homes.

SCA Health’s Creative Manager, Paige Kozeniewski, is an expert in design, and has created hundreds of flyers, informational pamphlets, and more for SCA Health-affiliated centers and practices across the country. She understands and emphasizes the importance of including visuals aspects in patient communications and education.

“Visual aids can attract and maintain the interest of your audience. In the healthcare industry, doctors provide their patients with new and difficult-to-understand information in an environment they may only sometimes be comfortable in,” she says. “By sending patients home with materials that include visuals, they can boost their understanding of the content by engaging with it in a more relaxed setting.”

This leads to incorporating images into your patient education materials and how they can enhance the relationship with patients. Adding pictures to patient education materials can increase attention, comprehension, and adherence to instructions. Visuals are also inclusive for all patient education regardless of their background or level of comprehension.

The Data Behind Visuals

The inclusion of visuals capitalizes on several aspects of relating to a patient, including:

  1. Attention Span
    • Studies show the average attention span is around 8 seconds. This is an incredibly short time to capture a patient’s attention and disperse information. Physicians can utilize engaging visuals to deliver information quickly and effectively.
  2. Comprehension
    • The brain processes images roughly 60,000x faster than the written word. Research has shown that, in comparison to text alone, visual images and diagrams are better at conveying information and improving comprehension for readers.
  3. Recall and Adherence to Instructions
    • According to MIT, around 65% of the population are considered visual learners. This learning style recalls and understands information better in a visual format rather than a text or speech heavy discussion style.
  4. Inclusion
    • Regardless of literacy, language, or other backgrounds, images have long been the way to disperse information across cultures. The inclusion of visual images can help bridge gaps between physicians and their patients that may exist. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that physicians, “choose visuals that support the main message and have clear headings, labels, and captions.” Even though language barriers may exist, the use of a picture or image can help a physician convey the necessary information to keep a patient informed and educated on the topic at hand.

The incorporation of visual communications is vital to your practice or center’s efforts to the education of patients. Adding visuals such as infographics or charts can enhance the information given during patient education. Utilizing visuals will also allow for improved retention of important information, leading to better health outcomes and a positive doctor-patient relationship.

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