Make written materials easily accessible

Intranet not always best for distribution

Making written handouts readily available to clinicians interacting with patients is an important element of patient education.

At Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, OH, a patient education listing on the intranet gives staff the ability to print most items from a computer in their department, explains Janet L. Petty, MLIS, AHIP, associate librarian at Craig Memorial Library. The rest, such as commercial pamphlets, are ordered online, or via e-mail, fax, or a phone call to the patient education department that is operated by the medical library under the guidance of the medical staff-driven multidisciplinary Patient and Family Education Committee. When materials are ordered, the department is notified when items are ready. Staff members come to the library to pick up their order.

All materials are distributed free of charge, and there is one budget for written educational items. When departments are asked to pay for their materials, it is usually because they are specific to their discipline and not used elsewhere in the hospital, says Petty.

Within the patient education department at Mount Carmel East in Columbus, OH, a coordinator tracks supply levels with the help of two volunteers. Vendor items are ordered by an electronic purchasing system. When in-house materials need to be printed, a requisition is sent to the Creative Services Department, according to Karen Guthrie, RN, MS, manager of community and patient education. "While some of our staff advocate for only electronic access and printing, it can be an inconvenience for staff to print handouts that are given out frequently," says Guthrie.

She encourages departments to use the preprinted in-house materials only for topics that they frequently cover during patient education, she says. The versions that come from the print shop are more attractive with a color header, and they are sturdier with a slightly heavier paper, Guthrie says.

The commercial and print materials are picked up by staff in the receiving departments or delivered by the education department. A courier delivers items to off-campus sites.

Most patient education materials at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus are created in-house and distributed on the Intranet. This system not only makes materials accessible across the health system, but it also allows for consistent information to be distributed, says Diane Moyer, BSN, MS, RN, associate director of patient education at the center.

The purchased materials that are used are coordinated and distributed by other departments. For example, the cancer hospital purchases some brochures and materials and distributes them to units. Also, the librarian at the consumer library coordinates ordering commercial materials distributed to the public at that location. To obtain copies of the pamphlets, people visit the library in person, or the material is distributed by mail to people who call asking for information, explains Moyer.