Waiting room materials
The waiting room can be an important place for patients to access health information.19,20 Materials such as posters and leaflets are often available from health promotion units of state health departments, your primary care organisation and non-government organisations such as the Heart Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Cancer Council, Quit and other peak bodies.
The effectiveness of these materials is debatable. Generally, a more targeted and personalised approach to providing health information is considered more effective.
Where posters and leaflets are used, the information should be clear, simple, engaging, timely (eg for influenza season, Movember) and unbiased. If possible, it should be available in the languages used by patients attending the practice. Materials need to be replenished and rotated regularly. A poster that is left in the practice for years will become all but invisible.
A ‘less is more strategy’ should also be used. Much of the material on noticeboards is not readable unless the patient walks up to it. Most patients won’t do this. Sensitive material may be better portrayed in more discreet locations (eg sexually transmitted infection advice on the back of the toilet door).
Two pieces of advice:
- Check the validity of materials and regularly update.
- Showcase a topic of the month – use the Department of Health Calendar of Events to pick your health topics.
- Ms Jan Chaffey, Green Book Editorial Committee
If you have a TV in the waiting room and you’re just playing daytime TV shows, you’re missing an opportunity to provide useful information to patients. There are specialised video materials available for waiting rooms. These can both entertain and inform.
You can also have your own material (eg presentation slides) incorporated into these videos.
- Ms Karen Booth, Green Book Editorial Committee
Patient education is more effective when personalised and handed out to the patient by the GP or practice staff.
– Assoc Prof John Litt, Green Book Editorial Committee
Note: you can also provide information in different formats – for example, you can email information to the patient and provide links to useful websites.
A practice notice board can provide information about self-help groups and local programs, as well as contact information for patients to self-refer. It is important to keep the notice board up to date. Some practices now provide computers in the waiting room that allow patients to access education material from selected websites.
NPS MedicineWise also has a MedicineWise handbook, which is a consumer resource designed to be read by patients in waiting rooms. It defines health and medical terms and offers summaries on each page.
Aboriginal medical services often develop culturally appropriate material for their patients. Visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations for a list of useful contacts.