Panel Discussion: Communication Between Patients and Health Care Providers October 15 - 22, 2007

Discussion Summary

This panel included an adult learner, 2 physicians who are well-versed in health literacy issues, and a health educator. The panelists and list members discussed the challenges of communicating with health care providers for adults with lower literacy skills, and the strategies to make this communication more effective.

We discussed how the setting can influence communication, and addressed how both patients and health care providers can adjust their habits and communication styles in these settings to be more effective. We also talked about readability measures for written materials, communication challenges of the Deaf community and blind, visually impaired or intellectually disabled adults, and how health professionals can find training for health literacy and cultural competence. We also debated appropriate terminology for "health care providers" and "patients".

Guest Biographies

Lisa M. Jones, MD is a board certified Obstetrician Gynecologist with considerable experience working with the community health center patient populations. She holds a Masters degree in Education from the University of Michigan. This unique background gives her the tools necessary to develop, present and evaluate patient education. Dr. Jones' skill set includes a thorough understanding of preventative care, knowledge of adult educational theory and a familiarity with diverse patient populations. Additionally, Dr Jones is an experienced health education speaker having presented for the March of Dimes, YWCA, developed and taught adult health education programs and authored patient education materials.

Anne Zettek-Sumner, RN, M.Ed. has worked for 30 + years as a Registered Nurse in a wide variety of health care settings - acute care, college health, community health, Internal Medicine and Cardiology practice - most recently as Clinical Program Coordinator in a non-profit health education and resource center in central Mass. She also has 10+ years as freelance medical writer and health education consultant. Her special skills and interests include video production and evaluation, instructional design, media evaluation, and large health fairs/events.

Madelyn Davis is a new reader and volunteer at a homeless shelter for women.

Barbara Bayldon, M.D. is an Assistant professor at Northwestern University and Head of the Section of Primary Care at Children's Memorial Chicago She has spent the past 20 years working with underserved populations and those with low health literacy. In the past 5 years she has been trained in the AMA Health Literacy Train the Trainer program, become involved both on the national level with the American Academy of Pediatrics Project Advisory Committee on Health Literacy, given multiple workshops at the state AAP level on Health Literacy and is working in her hospital and clinical setting on programs aimed at bridging the gap between medical care health literacy requiremnts and the health literacy level of her patient population. With a colleague she has created a volunteer program to aid patients and families and allow them to become partners in medical decision making and management of their children's health.

Note: We had two other teachers and one other literacy student planned to be on the panel, but at the last minute they had to cancel. We welcome other opinions from students, and will try to follow up in the future to hear more from them!

Discussion Preparation

There was no reading to prepare for this discussion, but everyone was asked to think about their own personal experiences in communicating with their doctor, or a technician or specialist. Health care providers and educators were to think about therr experiences communicating with patients who may have lower literacy and English speaking skills. Teachers were to think about how they can play a role in helping students to communicate more effectively. Andr administrative health people were to think about the systems in their center that could help or hinder effective communication of health information. People were asked to think about both oral and written communication, what makes them more effective, and what makes them fall flat.

Julie McKinney

Discussion List Moderator

World Education/NCSALL