Background on Provider Education
What are provider education strategies?
- Interventions can enhance health care providers’ knowledge and skills related to counseling patients or clients about injury from falls through information and education.
- This type of intervention is geared towards health care providers working in clinical settings including physicians, nurses, dentists, dieticians, etc.
- These interventions train qualified health care providers to assess individual risks for injury from falls and to counsel or provide advice on how to alter their behaviors and their environments in order to reduce their risk of injury from falls. This training offers health care providers access to information and resources about:
- the benefits of engaging in behaviors and making environmental changes to reduce injury from falls (e.g., increasing physical activity, installing window guards);
- how to improve culturally competent communication between individuals and health care providers;
- the health risks of engaging in certain behaviors (e.g., walking on slippery surfaces) and related types of injury (e.g., hip fractures); and
- ways to change individuals’ behaviors and environments by increasing support (e.g., physician recommendations for physical activity or the use of window guards) and reducing barriers (e.g., provide information on how to access exercise classes or window guards).
How can health care providers impact injury from falls?
- Health care providers are a primary and respected source of health information. Many individuals and families seek out the advice of health care providers to maintain their health and quality of life on a regular basis. Therefore, health care providers are ideally suited to have an ongoing influence on individuals’ decisions to change behaviors or environments to reduce injury from falls.
What are provider reminder strategies and how can they be used in injury from falls interventions?
- Provider reminder interventions can be developed as part of provider training. Provider reminder interventions give cues or prompts to providers to increase the likelihood that they will discuss injury from falls-related information with individuals. Provider reminder interventions utilize various strategies to prompt providers to discuss injury from falls with individuals, including changes to the individual’s chart (e.g., stickers, colored folders), changes in the physical environment (e.g., posters in exam rooms), or personal prompts (e.g., laminated pocket-sized information sheets).
What types of settings are appropriate for provider education strategies?
- Provider education interventions are usually offered to health care providers in traditional public or private health care settings, including a provider’s office, hospital, health department, or assisted living facility. However, health care providers with or without specialized medical training can participate in provider education training for non-traditional settings, including communities (e.g., mobile clinics), schools (e.g., school nurses), worksites, faith-based settings (e.g., health ministry), or individuals’ homes.
Where are opportunities for interventions in during patient visits?
- As part of their interaction with individuals, health care providers typically include the following:
- An assessment of an individuals’ health, risk of injury from falls, and readiness to make behavioral (e.g., increase physical activity) and environmental (e.g., use of handrails or safety gates) changes. This assessment enables the provider to provide personally relevant information to the individual about their health and risk of injury from falls. For example, it may be used to increase knowledge or awareness of risks, change attitudes about physical activity, teach individuals how to make environmental modifications, or provide social support for making these changes.
- An opportunity for the individual to ask questions or clarify what they have been told. This exchange with the provider can help to ensure that the individual understands the information and recommendations that they have been provided.
- Referrals and resources within the community to assist the individual in creating changes in their behaviors or their environments to reduce the risk of injury from falls. For example, the provider can give the individual phone numbers for dance or other physical activity classes in the community, or a list of places that provide free or low cost materials (e.g., hand rails, mats, window guards) for modifying their home to reduce the risk of injury from falls.
- Subsequent interactions between the provider and individual, including a reassessment of the individual’s health and risk of injury from falls as well as a discussion of challenges, benefits, and advice for maintaining changes to behaviors and environments over time.
- The information given to patients or clients may be provided face-to-face or over the phone, during a single session or over multiple sessions, or through informational materials including brochures or videos created for this purpose.
What are the best methods for educating health providers?
- Provider education training works best if it is hands-on and practical. This may include discussions among health care providers about how to counsel or provide advice to specific individuals (e.g., those with special health care needs, those who show no change over time), how to respond to individual barriers to changing behaviors or environments to reduce risk of injury from falls, how to reach high risk populations, how to work in different settings, and how to integrate effective practice strategies into different practice styles.
- Previous studies also suggest the need to consider longitudinal education strategies, tailoring provider education about injury from falls to specific populations (e.g., older adults with cognitive or physical impairments), training on community and policy influences on injury from falls in addition to the more traditional focus on individual services, and improved methods for patient tracking, repeat testing, and community referrals. Interventions should be accomplishable in a quick and succinct manner.
What are the barriers to implementing provider education interventions?
- It is difficult to understand the effectiveness of these interventions because the interaction between the provider and individual is unique for each individual, short in duration (less than 5 minutes), may involve recommendations for multiple behaviors at once (e.g., eat healthy, be active and quit smoking), or may lack institutional support for sharing this type of information during a visit (e.g., policies, procedures, training, or incentives).