Good patient education teaches ideas and skills that help patients cope with immediate medical problems, maintain health and avoid disease. Patient education is increasingly important as hospital stays are shortened, patients become more active health consumers, and there is more need to document informed consent for treatment. It is difficult to provide consistent high quality patient education and reimbursement is problematic. Computers have unique attributes for individualized, effective instruction, including variable lesson pacing controlled by the patient and the ability to accurately track the level of patient understanding to document informed consent and for third party reimbursement purposes. The ability of the computer to persuade as well as inform helps motivate behavior change. The unrealized potential of computer-based patient education makes clear the need for further research on how to effectively use this unique tool for patient education.