Improving Patient Communication and Literacy

July 12, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


Challenges to patients’ health literacy and communication with physicians are major problems, according to a May 29, 2013, Medscapearticle, which cites an Institute of Medicine publication that states that almost half of U.S. adults have difficulty understanding conversations with their physician. While physicians attempt to simplify their discussions with patients, many are still unable to ensure that patients have a sufficient understanding of the conversation. Figuring out who may have comprehension issues may be challenging; while anyone can have these issues, the following groups are more likely to have trouble: senior citizens, young adults, immigrants with limited proficiency in English, people with limited education, and people with visual or cognitive impairment. Some red flags that may signal comprehension difficulties include incomplete or inaccurate patient registration forms, frequently missed appointments, nonadherence to medication instructions, and lack of follow-through with various tests or referrals.

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