Committed To Patient Care
Consumer Health Information Corporation was founded in 1983 in response to the profound need that consumers and patients have for accurate and understandable information about their medications. Early in her career, Founder and President Dr. Dorothy L. Smith became concerned that many patients being discharged from the hospital were returning home without enough information to safely manage their therapy. They did not know why a medication had been prescribed, why it was important to follow the dosage instructions, or how to manage commonly occurring side effects. It was clear to her that there was a need to counsel patients in language they could understand, and to be able to calm patients’ fears about side effects so they could learn to manage common side effects without stopping the medication prematurely. There simply was not enough room on the prescription label to provide all of this information.
Bridging The Gap
To try to bridge the gap between patients and health professionals, she took these concerns to her medical and pharmacy colleagues to determine what could be done to better meet patient needs. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses and physiotherapists all agreed that they wanted to counsel patients–but they said they lacked the time and expertise to translate complicated medical terminology into practical, written “patient-friendly” medication instructions. Dr. Smith took the lead in a 7-year project working with medical, pharmacy and nursing colleagues who were committed to developing a resource that would help fill this void. They developed patient instructions for commonly prescribed brand and generic medications in both the U.S. and Canada. The result was the Medication Guide for Patient Counseling (Lea & Febiger), which became a pioneering textbook and reference source for health care providers. The book was successful, going into several editions and being translated into Japanese. Unfortunately, many health providers simply lacked the time to counsel patients in their practices. There was no effective and easy way to provide patients with written materials they could take home with them to read. In the end, patients still were not getting the information they needed.
Innovative Counseling Tools
Committed to providing health professionals with tools to counsel their patients, Dr. Smith then developed patient leaflets that physicians and pharmacists could give to patients when they were prescribed a medication. This highly successful program became one of the first patient information leaflet systems in North America. The success of the leaflet system led to a series of consumer reference books, including Understanding Prescription Drugs (Simon & Schuster) and Understanding Canadian Prescription Drugs (Key Porter Books). Both books were endorsed by national pharmacy organizations and became best-selling household reference guides.
These experiences in working to provide patients with practical information showed Dr. Smith that:
- All health professionals face serious time restrictions in their practices. Few have the time to research the clinical literature, translate the information to the grade 6-8 readability level, and design the material for maximum understanding.
- All patients need written information about their medications because they will forget 50% of what the physician tells them by the time they reach the pharmacy. Patients need this written information so they can refer back to it when they have questions or concerns about their medication.
- All patients need individualized patient education. While written information can never replace face-to-face counseling, it can be a valuable time-saving tool for the health professional.
- All patient education materials must be 100% clinically accurate and up-to-date. Using appropriate behavior modification techniques, patient education materials must not only convince patients to take their medications correctly, but also strengthen the patient’s relationship with the health care provider.
- Patients require different types of education at different stages of their therapy. Physicians, pharmacists and other health providers need progressive education tools to help guide patients who have chronic diseases.