OBHG’s Dr. Nicolai Hinds writes about the medical illiteracy epidemic in Kevin MD. He offers the following advice to physicians:
“While it’s important to explain the diagnosis and treatment options to our patients, it’s equally, if not more important for us to ensure that they understand what we’re saying to them. Be it asking for confirmation, gaining trust to help them know it’s OK to ask questions, or making ourselves vulnerable to help them feel safe, hospital-based physicians should call on our emotional intuition on health literacy to ensure that the excellent care we are delivering in the hospital continues to have good effect outside of the hospital as well, when that patient goes home.”
According to Dr. Hinds, only 12 percent of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy. Medical illiteracy has been linked to poor health outcomes, such as increased risk for hospitalization, increased racial disparities and less frequent use of preventive services.
Dr. Hinds describes how he recently found that he needed to challenge his assumptions about patients’ health literacy — and tailor his communication to better address their needs. He explains that even if he empathizes with the patient, or has a lot in common with them, he cannot assume that they have the same vocabulary that he does.
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