I’ve been to hundreds of doctors’ appointments – many for myself and my family, but most for my elderly clients seeking care. We often leave doctors’ offices with multiple handouts. When we get home, I review the information and highlight what is most important. When I return to see my clients, in most cases the papers haven’t been touched, but questions remain.
Printed materials outlining key points about a new diagnosis or medication changes are helpful, but not 100 percent effective. During my former career as a health care writer, I created many of these handouts. I worked hard to develop understandable, easy-to-read material for patients.
Unfortunately (I don’t mean to generalize), many of my clients put these educational flyers in a “safe place.” And that’s where they stay. To this day, I get a little twinge when the flyer someone worked so diligently to create gets repurposed as a shopping list or just tossed into the “circular file.”
Patient health videos have become a huge educational force in our lives. Video also goes a long way in improving doctor-to-patient communication.
I looked at studies on the effectiveness of patient education videos. The research says they are successful in complementing – and even strengthening – patient care conversations.
An article by the Academy of Family Physicians says that health education videos for patients help providers explain medical topics and procedures. The amount of online videos people are watching today has nearly doubled since 2018. Why not parlay this trend to improved patient education and engagement?
Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Psychiatry is leading the way here. Like other health care systems, MGH is figuring out how to coordinate care and communicate more effectively with patients. At the same time, they want to empower caregivers with high-quality information throughout the care journey.
MGH psychiatry has partnered with Dr. Katz, Inc., a technology solution company that connects mental health and education for better care. The Dr. Katz app was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The elevation in mental health struggles over recent years and the increased adoption of digital tools made us think about how to use technology to make access to patient information easier,” said Nathaniel Hundt, founder and CEO of Dr. Katz.
Hundt works closely with MGH experts to produce short videos focusing on mental health. For example, if you have been newly diagnosed with depression and anxiety, you can watch a brief (yet thorough) presentation by a member of MGH’s geriatric psychiatry team.
More than 70 clinical experts from the MGH Psychiatry Department have worked with Hundt over the past few years to gather insights and actionable tips for patients. The result of this collaboration is the creation of more than 100 brief mental health videos designed to enhance collaboration between patients and providers.
When patients watch these videos, they also can share feedback and submit additional questions to their care team using the app. The app incorporates measures and screening tools, making it easy for patients and providers to track changes in health, mood, and behavior.
“Dr. Katz fills unique and unmet need for patients and families,” said Dr. Jennifer Gatchel, a geriatric psychiatrist at MGH. “Patients have immediate access to digestible expert knowledge. This is vetted content, and we are unique in being able to offer this to our patients.”
The initial library of MGH Psychiatry Video Shorts addresses mental health topics including Overcoming Stigma, Depression and Anxiety Disorders, Parenting, Eating Disorders, Substance Use and Recovery, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Medication Education.
Dr. Katz’s “Caring for Older Adults” series (go.drkatzinc.com/olderadults) currently consists of six unique short-form videos covering dementia, late-life anxiety and depression, grief, bereavement, and caregiving.
This series is intended to provide support for both patients and caregivers. For example, dementia wreaks havoc on 30 to 40 percent of individuals over age 85. Accepting and navigating your or a loved one’s new reality – from memory loss to other cognitive changes – pose a high level of fear, anxiety, and stress for caregivers. What do you do when your mom – the one everyone relied on – loses her sense of direction, experiences difficulty completing daily tasks, or forgets to take mediation?
“I am a remote caregiver to my mother and aunt,” said Gatchell. “I am passionate about advocating for patients with dementia. I see the impact of these videos in my practice, and I value them as a caregiver.”
I think Maurizio Fava, psychiatrist-in-chief at Mass. General, sums it up best: “Dr. Katz is a new platform that helps you connect with my colleagues at Mass General, leading clinicians who have expertise on many specific health topics. The platform provides patients and clinicians with high-quality information to improve patient well-being. We’ve created these short videos because we believe education is not only important, but it can be therapeutic.”
Carolyn Schultz Eggert writes from Newton. She has been working to improve the lives of older people for 10 years through her business, Family Friends Boston. Previously she was a reporter for People magazine. Questions? Please email her at Carolyneggert@yahoo.com.