Three levels of evaluating your patient education

There are three levels of evaluation of learning that we can apply to patient education:

1. Learning evaluation (Can they teach it back?)
2. Transfer evaluation (Can they apply what they’ve learned?  Did they apply what they’ve learned?)
3. Impact evaluation (Have health outcomes improved?)

Teach back is only the first level of evaluation of learning.  The second level of learning is application:  Can the learner apply the new information to life?  Have behaviors changed?  Can new behaviors be sustained?

But when we talk about patient education’s return on investment (ROI), we have to look at the third level:  impact evaluation.  Have measurable health outcomes improved?  Are readmissions decreased?   Has satisfaction improved?

Are you measuring all three when you evaluate your patient education program?  Keep in mind they are interdependent.  If your learners are unable to teach back the content, or unable to apply what they have learned, you may not see an impact on health outcomes.

Many people can tell you what foods are healthy, and what they should eat, but if they don’t apply that information consistently, you have only succeeded at the first level of evaluation.  Transfer of information to practice is not automatic, and may require motivational interviewing, health coaching, and continuing supports to maintain behavior change.  So when you develop a patient education program, do not stop at content.  Built in supports for the transfer of that information to practice.  How are you going to help learners remember what they’ve learned, and build new self-care habits?  Skip that step, and you may not have an impact.

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