Pediatric patients pose unique challenges to education, engagement

There might be no greater tragedy in healthcare than a pediatric patient living through a disease with a bleak prognosis. While there are innumerable diseases that can threaten children's health, more than 13,400 under the age of 19 are diagnosed with cancer every year, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization. Not only can this be a physically and emotionally painful experience for children, but they most likely do not understand the nature of their illnesses or the best ways to address them. Patient education is a vital part of any disease management program, but pediatric patients present categorically different challenges to effective outreach and engagement than their adult counterparts. While advanced medical technology and increased training for nurses and physicians only help to improve clinical outcomes, patient education for pediatric patients needs to be intimately personalized and comprehensively accessible for the best possible care.

Customize everything Patient education experts are well aware that solutions personalized to specific adults based on physical appearance or their individual diseases are much more impactful in terms of overall awareness and engagement. However, handouts for pediatric patients provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics only offer providers the ability to list their practice at the top of the page - hardly customization in any meaningful clinical sense.

Instead, pediatric patient education solutions need to be intimately customized at the most personal level possible for measurable effect. Children may be in understandably fragile emotional states during treatment, and any strategies that do not speak to their immediate concerns, such as missing school due to illness and difficulties talking with friends, will likely be ignored just like esoteric clinical language.

Pediatric patient education also needs to approach children from multiple media platforms. Adults may be able to recognize the gravity of their medical situations and can sit through an otherwise boring pamphlet or brochure, but children not have shorter attention spans and their illnesses may make them less likely to be able to concentrate on anything for too long. Solutions spread across tablets and smartphones in addition to physical handouts that incorporate 3D elements to break free from the traditional mold of patient education.

Pediatric patient education goes beyond the child, though. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons explained that treating children often involves treating the entire family, so while children may be the focal point of any educational outreach campaign, parents need to be provided with solutions that teach them about their son or daughter's condition. Only then can patient education have a comprehensive impact on patient outcomes.