Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

February 27, 2008

Researchers from Ball State University are collaborating with Medical Animatics, LLC and Community Health Network to see if a first-of-its-kind program combining education and informed consent can better explain complex medical information than traditional educational methods.

Community Health Network is now offering a multimedia education and informed consent program for its surgical weight loss patients. The program was developed by Medical Animatics and can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. It combines cutting-edge medical animation, video, audio narration and interactive programming into an easy-to-use interactive design. Unlike other patient-education applications, this program uses proprietary knowledge-check technologies developed by Medical Animatics to ensure that patients see and understand information regarding bariatric surgery as well as the associated benefits and risks involved.

Corinne Renguette, a doctoral student in applied linguistics at Ball State, and her faculty adviser, Mary Theresa Seig, are conducting the study to determine whether patients actually learn more when they receive information through this multimedia program as opposed to only reading complex documents.

Traditional patient education often is done through such written documents, which, according to previous research, may not be the most effective way to ensure that learning occurs. Legal terminology also makes up a significant part of the informed consent process. However, patients need to be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of the procedures and the risks before making decisions.  

"According to the American Medical Association, over a third of our population is lacking in functional health literacy," said Renguette. "Many people do not understand complex medical information. We would like to see if this tool can help people better understand the complex material."

To help increase comprehension, patients can review the Web-based program as many times as they like, share it with family or friends, or really get familiar with the content prior to surgery — all from the convenience of home. Once the patient has been approved for surgery, he or she can complete the informed consent process within the same program.

"We believe that sophisticated technology is a key component to education, healthier lifestyles and ultimately patient outcomes," said Harlon Wilson, president and chief executive officer, Medical Animatics, LLC, which collaborates with health care professionals to develop innovative, technology-based educational tools for patients such as the patient education and informed consent program on bariatric surgery. "This research is part of our commitment to showing higher patient comprehension levels for our programs versus typical patient education."

According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery or gastric bypass surgery, limits the amount of food the stomach can hold by surgically reducing the stomach's capacity to only a few ounces. In addition to reducing food intake, some weight loss surgeries alter the digestion process, which curbs the amount of calories and nutrients absorbed.

Nearly 205,000 of the estimated 15 million people with morbid obesity in the U.S. had the procedure in 2007, according to the ASMBS.

"Since one of the most important steps in weight loss surgery is getting and understanding a lot of information, we believe this tool will increase comprehension for our patients," said Jack Ditslear III, medical director of Community Hospital North's bariatric program. "We're excited to see the research results so that we have firm data to confirm our beliefs."