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Lack of understanding as a barrier of effective communication

Patients sharing stories regarding lack of understanding of medical information.
ROBERTS: My doctor has been very unhappy about my lab results and suggested multiple times that I will need to reduce my salt intake, and that’s what I have been doing. I haven’t put any salt on my potatoes since then, so now they taste very bland. Thankfully, when I buy my favourite frozen meals, I don’t need to put any salt on them. They already taste very good without adding any salt, so I’ve been eating those mostly now. I feel that’s a great alternative for me. MS.
PETERS: A lot of times, I don’t understand a thing what my doctor tells me. She uses very difficult words. And even though she’s very nice and always asks if I understood everything, I just nod, because I’m ashamed to admit to her that I don’t understand. I have to take a lot of medications. And in the beginning, I was told that some of them I’m only allowed to take together with food. But sometimes I don’t eat very regularly, so then I also don’t take my medication. Only last week, my doctor told me that that wasn’t the right way. I should just eat a small snack so that I can take my medication. It’s very confusing.
There are so many rules that I don’t know about. MR.
JAY: My doctor always tells me that I should eat better, do more exercise, drink less alcohol, but I don’t know why that would be important, so I just live my life the way I know how. It can’t be that important, you know? My uncle, he has chain smoked for over 50 years, and he’s still fine at the age of 85. My doctor told me something about healthy eating and exercise and kidney disease, but as long as I take my medication, I believe I will be OK.

One of the main communication barriers is that patients often do not understand the information that they are being given by their health professional. In the interviews shown here, patients share their experiences of communicating with their doctor.

What leads to a lack of understanding from the patient’s perspective? What are the potential health implications of not understanding health information? How could be a way to a healthcare professional overcome the problem of a lack of understanding?

Please share your views with other learners and examine what other learners contribute.

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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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