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What can health-care facilities do to help patients better understand medical information
Date:9/15/2010

ssionals rarely asked patients if they were "being clear." Problems with oral communication also extend to a lack of availability of multilingual employees who can translate for providers. Following the evaluation, the researchers gave suggestions to each facility.

Smith recommends several steps that the health care industry can take to increase patient understanding:

  • Health care professionals should use plain language, instead of professional jargon, as well as make sure a patient understands their directions.

  • Printed materials should be available in large, easy-to-read fonts and written at a fifth to eighth grade level.

  • Clear maps and consistent navigational signs should be posted throughout the interior, as well as on the exterior of the building.

  • Wheelchair accessibility also should be a consideration beyond mobility. For example, maps should be posted at wheelchair-level.

Smith is working to educate current and future health care professionals on the importance of patient understanding by speaking at professional conferences and advocating curriculum changes. This year, Smith has spoken and is scheduled to speak at professional conferences for rehabilitation professionals including occupational and speech therapists. MU's School of Health Professions also has added a health care literacy requirement to some of its degree programs.

"Health literacy is even more important as people are being discharged sooner from hospitals and are charged with their own care," Smith said. "I don't think miscommunication with patients is anything that anyone does on purpose. To facilitate better understanding, health literacy is something that should be more on the forefront of curriculum."


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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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