Patient and Doctor Education: What is the Secret Sauce?

Patient and Doctor Education: What is the Secret Sauce?

The holy grail of migrating sick care to health care is changing doctor and patient behavior. To paraphrase Drucker, all the rest is a cost.

But, how do we do that? How have those in other industries done it and what is the secret sauce?

The first step is education, since patient health IQs and insurance IQs are remarkably low. The latter also pertains to health professionals.

I might be taking a trip to South America, so I decided to learn Spanish. Living in Denver, having studied Latin, French and Italian, and traveling a bit gave me somewhat of an edge. But, beyond finding the bathroom (Donde esta los banos?) , I usually get a blank stare or a response in English when I order tacos in Spanish at my favorite Mexican restaurant.

So, I signed up for Duolingo, a free language learning app that has taken off and is one of the darlings of the startup/scaleup world. Sick care edupreneurs and patient engagement folks can take a page from their playbook:

  1. Easy to use interface on mobile device.
  2. Application of adult learning theories by repetition. repetition, repetition.
  3. Gamification and behavioral techniques.
  4. Algorithms personalized to levels of achievement.
  5. Supplemental platforms like tips and podcasts.
  6. Free.
  7. Opt in advertising to support it.
  8. A way to give back some of our success.
  9. Progressive learning moving from simple Spanish words that are a lot like their English words to basic vocabulary, to first person active tense of commonly used verbs to increasing complexity.
  10. Competency based pacing.
  11. Using growth hacking techniques.
  12. Get famous people to give testimonials.

I also use Google translate when I want to pretend I'm in Chile.

Education is but the first step in moving patients and doctors from education to awareness to intention to decision to action. Education is a great first step, but, when it comes to helping patients and doctors make smart purchasing decisions, either as agents or end users, it is the easy part. The hard part is getting people to stop thinking like humans. Until then, consumerism is myth.

Muchas gracias and ten un buen viaje.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

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  • Natalia Sampson

    Education is an essential part of medical care. It must be conducted properly for the patient to receive optimal benefit.

  • Tony Harland

    Patient education is a salient issue among doctors.

  • Andrew Mitchell

    The better you are able to communicate your needs and concerns, the better your doctor can respond.

  • Dean Greig

    If your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction, be assertive.

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Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

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