DVDs meet needs of visual learners

Evaluate a DVD first

A resource library for patient education should contain DVDs to help visual learners understand information, according to Taryn J. Bailey, MSN, RN-BC, executive director of Professional Practice and Patient Education Services at North Shore Medical Center in Salem, MA.

Patient education managers should have DVDs available as a teaching option. If funds are limited and managers must prioritize, select the DVDs that help patients learn skills, such as administering an injection, tracheotomy care, or the use of an inhaler, Bailey advises.

Yet not just any DVD will do. Each must be assessed to determine if it is an appropriate educational tool for patients. Clinicians in the particular specialty area should provide feedback, says Bailey. Also, if an institution has a patient educator, he or she should review the content.

To provide guidelines for review, develop a media evaluation form. Bailey says there are several areas that should be covered when assessing a DVD.

Content needs to be accurate and reflect current practice. It must be comprehensive, covering the basic information on the topic, as well as essential components. Make sure the content is patient-oriented, as well. Bailey says groups within a health care system may want to create a DVD by filming a lecture, and often this content is clinician-oriented rather than patient-centered.

Plain language must be used, with minimal medical jargon. Clear explanation of concepts should be included. Storytelling is also important. DVDs in which people tell how they made a medication work, or dealt with congestive heart failure, help viewers grasp the points made in the DVD, says Bailey.

Content and concepts must be culturally appropriate, matching the experiences of the targeted culture. For example, a DVD on nutrition that targets Hispanic patients should use actors from that culture and culturally appropriate foods so it makes sense, explains Bailey.

If a manager thinks a DVD needs to be assessed for cultural appropriateness, he or she should contact interpreter services within the health care system, or the company the hospital contracts with for services. However, the evaluation needs to be done by a medical interpreter, says Bailey. That is because words in English sometimes have no corresponding word in the foreign language.

"You want to make sure the appropriate word for that concept is used," says Bailey.

She adds that in her opinion, foreign language DVDs produced by reputable, professional vendors do not need to be reviewed for appropriate language.

Health literacy considered

While there is no tool to assess speaking level in a DVD such as there is in grade reading level in written material, in order to make sure people with low health literacy can understand the content, reviewers can determine if complex words are being used, says Bailey. Also, they can make sure there are graphics that help explain terms. One of the benefits of film is that concepts can easily be graphically illustrated.

The visual and sound quality are also important. If permission is given to copy DVDs for an in-house television system, make sure the quality is not diminished, warns Bailey. Also, DVDs should have closed captioning as an option for people who are hearing impaired.

Before a DVD is purchased, always make sure the organization producing it is reputable. Bailey advises patient education managers to go to the vendor's website to get information on its editorial board or make a phone call. Make sure the content is evidence-based and the vendor updates the material when necessary.

"DVDs have to keep pace with changes in practice, research, clinical innovations, and recommendations," says Bailey.

Before purchasing a DVD in a foreign language, make sure it is on one of the top medical issues for which this patient group is hospitalized, advises Bailey.

There are many options for the distribution of DVDs within a health care organization. The best is to have them available on an in-house television system, where they can be shown on demand or as part of regularly scheduled programming, says Bailey. The worst option is to have copies on units, because a process for pulling outdated DVDs has to be in place when new versions come out, she adds.

Many hospitals have video streaming on their website and make their library available to the public. Also, health care organizations post patient education videos on YouTube. Copies of DVDs can be sent home with patients to view, which is helpful should patients need to review the teaching one more time.

While vendors often market DVDs as a tool to aid busy clinicians, like print material, it never is a substitute for one-on-one education, says Bailey. The nurse or clinician must always review the information with the patient.


• Taryn J. Bailey, MSN, RN-BC, Executive Director, Professional Practice and patient Education Services, North Shore medical Center, 81 Highland Ave., Axelrod 855, Salem, MA 01970. Telephone: (978) 354-4799. E-mail: tjbailey@partners.org.