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Communication Techniques for Patients With Low Health Literacy: A Survey of Physicians, Nurses, and Pharmacists

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Objective : To explore the self-reported techniques used by health care professionals to enhance communication with patients with low health literacy.

Methods : A survey was administered to physicians (n=99), nurses (n=87), and pharmacists (n=121) attending continuing education programs on patient safety and health care quality. Each was asked to rate communication-enhancing strategies by frequency of use and effectiveness with patients with low health literacy.

Results : Using simple language (94.7%), handing out printed materials (70.3%), and speaking more slowly (67.3%) were the most commonly used strategies. Strategies currently recommended by health literacy experts were less routinely used.

Conclusions : Further research is needed that evaluates the effectiveness of communication strategies for patients with limited literacy skills within diverse clinical encounters.

Keywords: communication; health literacy; patient education

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-08-01

More about this publication?
  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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