A Sentrics Interview with Richard Waithe, PharmD

Health systems are focused on reducing readmissions. Data shows that health literacy and nonadherence, two measures patient education videos can help with, are leading factors for readmissions. In one study, 20% of readmissions were due to nonadherence. Another study found an 18% higher risk of readmission in patients with low health literacy.

Richard Waithe is a pharmacist and president of VUCA Health, a Sentrics partner that provides video medication education delivered through the Sentrics E3 Patient Experience Platform. While still in pharmacy school, he played a key role on the content team as a junior editor in helping VUCA Health create the largest library of medication education videos. Fast forward to present day, he is committed to continuing VUCA Health’s mission of improving health literacy through increased access to reliable and understandable medication information. He is passionate about patient engagement and advancements in technology that improve health outcomes.

We recently talked with him about the role medication education plays in improving patient outcomes and the patient experience.


Sentrics: What factors are driving the shift toward greater emphasis on medication education to hospital patients?

Waithe:  The biggest driver is the data that is starting to show the impact of health literacy on improving outcomes. And that fact is that health literacy really starts with health education and engagement. We have to recognize too that the way people consume information has changed to a preference for more audio-visual formats versus text. And there’s the growing complexity of treatments and medications, and we have to realize the impact on whole health literacy and patient outcomes.


How has medication education traditionally been delivered, and what techniques are you seeing hospitals implement now?

Waithe:  In many cases, the traditional way of educating patients on medications is still the way it is done today. That is, primarily relying on providing stacks of very hard to understand, text-heavy paper materials to the patient. And secondly, relying on nurses who have a very high responsibility to educate patients.

Both of those approaches have come with unique challenges. First of all, expecting a patient in the hospital to go through many pages of very dense text and understand it is a very big ask. They don’t feel well, they may be experiencing side effects of medications, they are in unfamiliar surroundings and anxious. And there are logistics of simply being in a hospital that make reading paper instructions problematic. For instance, I have a family member whose glasses were lost when she was being transferred to a new hospital room. So now, even if she had a high level of competency to understand the materials, she couldn’t physically see the information.

The other challenge is the workload of nurses. They often don’t have the time or support they need to spend with patients to educate them. Being able to give them tools to streamline that time is a huge benefit.

One of the approaches I am seeing now to resolve both of those issues is health systems installing patient education experience technology inside the patient room, on their TV. Some health systems are giving patients a tablet so that they can watch health videos. Either way, the nurse can send very customized content to a patient about that patient’s procedure or medications.  I’m seeing greater use of QR codes as well. With them, patients can scan a QR code and get access to digital information about their medication.


Why is video/digital medication education becoming more popular with patients?

Waithe: Consumer behaviors have drastically changed in the last 10 years. Consider the billions of hours of videos that people consume on Facebook and YouTube. It’s what people expect and that expectation is translating over to health education. We know that video is a very effective way to deliver a message. It is engaging, and there is something about having both visual and audio cues that helps a patient retain that information. Think about a patient in a health system setting, or one that is being discharged. That is probably one of the worst times to try to educate them with everything going on. But if you have an engaging video, they can retain the information better, and they can watch and rewatch it on demand to consume it when they want to.


It seems that digitally delivering medication education is a benefit to not just patients, but also to nursing staff. How does it support nurses?

Waithe: Video medication education gives the nursing staff the confidence of having a pharmacist in their pocket. It is a very powerful tool. Nurses have so much to worry about, so anything that improves their workload, including patient education support, is a bonus. My mom is a nurse so I hear about the volume of things they have to balance.  It also is a huge tool in helping a hospital recruit and retain nurses by giving them technology that makes their jobs easier.

The education is also a great way for nurses to refresh themselves about a medication so they feel more confident in talking with patients about it. We’re seeing pharmacy and medical staffs actually using our videos for continuing education, because they are a very effective and simple way to allow for easy consumption and a recap on a medication.


Let’s talk about care transitions. How do you see hospitals integrating medication education into their care transition processes, and why?

Waithe: The greatest asset that digital education provides to a care transition team is the ability for the patient to consume content in their own time. When a patient is being discharged, what is primarily on their mind is getting back home. They are being bombarded with so many things- transportation, what have they missed at home, what family members do I need to contact, and so on. Yet, at the same time, we’re trying to force on them important health information and education – which is almost always on paper, and it almost always ends up in the garbage. But what if they could get a reminder on their phone two days post-discharge reminding them to watch a video, or to take a medication they were prescribed?


Logically, medication education should improve a patient’s health literacy overall, and lead to better health outcomes. What metrics are you seeing that support that?

Waithe: There is data that shows a percentage of readmissions are due to medication non-adherence, and a lot of that is due to low health literacy and lack of health education. So if you can address those, you can impact readmission rates. In terms of things health systems can control, health education is that piece. I have seen one hospital implement a medication education solution using patient-friendly videos and they found 55% of patients intended to better manage their healthcare plus an upwards trend in HCAHPS scores and number of patients who filled out the survey.


What should a hospital nursing staff look for when choosing a digital/interactive medication education partner?

Waithe: There are six things I encourage hospitals to look for when considering the right digital education partner.

A robust library is the first thing. Having content is one thing, but you want content that helps serve a wide variety of patient needs in very specific ways.

Second, you want a versatile solution, and by that, I mean one that allows for content to be consumed through a mobile device, a portal, on the room TV, or at the bedside.

Third, be sure to choose a partner whose content can follow the patient through the transition of care so that the patient can access content later on demand.

Fourth, make sure the content is easily understandable and in a reading level appropriate for health education. For example, our VUCA content on Sentrics E3 is targeted to a fifth grade reading level, so that it is consumable by most.

Fifth, be sure you can deliver health content in the languages that are dominant in your market.

And lastly, ask how much content is being added and how often. Medications are being approved at a record pace, so be sure your digital education partner is continually adding new content and updating its current library.


See how video education over the Sentrics E3 Patient Experience Platform can benefit your patients. Schedule a tour today.