Over the past few months, I embarked on a Master’s degree program in Health Informatics at Karolinska Institutet. A lecture focusing on ‘patient safety literacy’ particularly caught my attention. This topic resonates with me as I see the importance of having a patient safety literacy, however, I believe it is quite low. Motivated by this, I decided to conduct a survey in Qatar to gain deeper insights into this issue, with over 100 diverse respondents reveals key insights into patient safety literacy and digital technology’s role. The survey asked for age, gender, level of education, background-related trends in patient understanding and digital tool preferences.

The survey contains questions to understand the age, and educational background, the frequency of interact with healthcare providers, challenges understanding medical information provided by healthcare professionals, the sector of the health services is visited, where people gets their informations from, if the feel comfortable discussing the details with the health providers, and to what extent they feel that they are included in the treatments, and how they prefer to conduct the followup.

As Qatar stands at a crossroads of tradition and innovation in the rapidly evolving healthcare landscape. A recent survey conducted among residents sheds light on the current state of patient safety literacy and the role of digital technology in both public and private healthcare sectors.

The Essence of Patient Safety Literacy

Patient safety literacy is more than just understanding medical jargon; it is about patients navigating the healthcare system, understanding their health conditions and treatment options, and making informed decisions about their care. This form of literacy is a cornerstone of patient-centered care, fostering a partnership between healthcare providers and patients. For healthcare providers, it means better communication, increased patient engagement, and enhanced health outcomes. For patients, it translates into greater control over their health, reduced anxiety, and a higher likelihood of adhering to treatment plans.

Understanding the Challenge

The survey reveals that about 35% of respondents need help understanding the medical information healthcare professionals provide. This underscores a crucial gap in patient safety literacy – a gap that healthcare providers must bridge to ensure better health outcomes.

Digital Tools: A Path to Empowerment

Interestingly, the survey highlights a strong preference for digital healthcare services. Online portals received the highest average preference rating (4.09 out of 5), indicating a growing comfort with digital platforms for health information. Similarly, WhatsApp chat functions scored an average of 3.82, reflecting a trend towards more immediate and accessible forms of communication.

While people are open to digital services, it should be noted that there’s a risk of people using portals that may give misinformation. It’s vital that with increased confidence in using online portals comes an awareness that it’s vital to question the source of information found online.

Variations Across Age Groups

The data presents fascinating age-related trends. Younger respondents (18-24) showed less enthusiasm for digital tools like chatbots and WhatsApp, while those in the 25-44 age bracket demonstrated a higher preference for online portals and WhatsApp chats. Notably, older participants (65-74) expressed a surprising affinity for virtual follow-up calls and WhatsApp chats, suggesting a bridging of the digital divide across generations.

Public vs. Private Healthcare

The survey also highlights the differences in patient experiences between public and private healthcare settings. While the private sector is often perceived as more adaptable to digital innovations, our findings indicate that patient literacy challenges and digital tool preferences are prevalent in both sectors. However, the private sector leads slightly in adopting digital tools, possibly due to more flexible infrastructures and funding.

Moving Forward in Qatar’s Healthcare

As Qatar continues to advance its healthcare system, these insights are invaluable. For healthcare professionals, understanding these preferences and challenges is critical to guiding patients effectively in the digital age. Tailored strategies are needed to address the diverse needs of different age groups and to bridge the gap in patient safety literacy.

In conclusion, as we navigate the digital transformation in healthcare, we must focus on enhancing patient safety literacy. This involves directing patients to credible digital resources and educating them on interpreting and utilizing this information effectively.