For healthcare professionals – be it hospital staff, medical representatives or bio-scientists developing new drugs, online learning courses can provide training and support in a variety of ways. For patients and caregivers too, who are at the other end of the spectrum in the healthcare industry, e-learning has a lot to offer. While every healthcare organization has available literature providing detailed information on the above, patients are often not able to perceive or understand them well to take informed decisions. This is where online learning courses can come into play.
An illness of any kind is daunting for an individual. For the lack of time, doctors or nurses are often unable to sit with patients and discuss their options at length with them. Misconceptions and myths concerning certain illnesses also hinder an open face-to-face discussion. Online learning courses enabled learning allows patients as well as caregivers to gather information at their own pace and in a secure environment.
A number of strategies can be employed to put the learner at ease and help them understand their options better. For instance, we developed a course on IVF for one of India’s leading IVF specialists, where scenarios were built with real-life people, practical problems and solutions. The learners were informed about IVF, various procedures and their options with the help of these scenarios.
Information and interactivities within an online learning course can prepare patients for the meeting with the doctor. This shortens the time spent on making them understand the mundane necessities and can be better spent in actual face-to-face interactions. For instance, in a course on a debilitating gastrointestinal disorder, we included clinic forms which the patients need to fill to get treatment for the disease. Important portions of the form like healthcare insurance details, details of previous treatments and history of vaccinations were highlighted to make sure that the patients can produce these details quickly and take the minimum time to fill in the forms in a correct manner.
Perhaps the most important benefit of technology-aided learning for healthcare patients is that it makes understanding complex procedures possible, even if he or she is a layman. With e-learning, graphics and 2D and 3D animations can be used to visually re-create complex procedures and break them down to individual steps to aid understanding. The patients have the option of re-enforcing their understanding by reading up the material whenever they need and sharing it with their family and friends as well.
In addition to information on the illness, treatment options and procedures, online learning courses can also provide the much needed mental and emotional support for patients as well as their caregivers. By sharing coping mechanisms, important resources, links and practical insights that is available to patients and their families at all times, e-courses can provide long term support. This is especially important if the treatment options have a long term implication on the quality of a patient’s life.
With the aid of technology, we can also create a virtual community of patients and caregivers. Discussion boards, wikis or blogs can be created inviting patients and their families to share experiences. It can double up as a searchable knowledge repository, where they can search for information and share it further. This will help dealing with their illness better and dispel the feeling of alienation that often accompanies illness.