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Experiences from healthcare professionals with health literacy

Health professionals musing on experiences of patients in practice in relation to accessing, understanding and applying health information.
WILKINS: I’m a doctor working in orthopaedics. We have a very busy outpatient clinic, usually having too many appointments and too little time. A few days ago, the appointments were running late and Mr. Andrews, who was on the list, hadn’t booked in and wasn’t in the waiting room. So I just carried on a bit annoyed, seeing the next person and the next. At the end of the day, the clinic finished and I was just about to leave, and suddenly Mr. Andrews appears. It turns out he had never been to the clinic before. He said he had no directions to the clinic on his appointment letter.
He had looked up the address online the day before, and couldn’t find the specific building, only the hospital, location, which he knew anyway. He arrived at the hospital early, drove in, and the unit wasn’t on any of the signs. He drove around for ages. People say anything when they are late, but I checked it out. The clinic wasn’t on a website map, nor was it on any of the signs. DR.
YOUNG: I explained to Mrs. Byrd about the blood test. She is in her 60s, so not that old. Lives alone, but her daughter drops by quite regularly, to make sure she is getting on OK and collects her prescriptions for her and things like that. I told her more than once that she needed to fast overnight before the blood test, and we moved the appointment list around so she would have the first appointment in the morning to make it easier for her. What else could I have done? The next morning, she arrived on time. And when I asked before taking the blood, just to check if she had eaten, she’d already had a light breakfast. Really?
I went out of my way to change the appointment list to make it easier. I even asked her directly, you do understand what you have to do, and she nodded. What else was I supposed to do? DR.
HARRISON: We asked quite a few people to take and record their own blood pressure at home, because some can get nervous and anxious with us checking it in the hospital. And that sends their blood pressure up. So getting them to do it at home gives us a better picture. Together, we go through how to do it, and we show them once. After that, they go home with the blood pressure monitor and the manufacturer’s written instructions. There are quite a number of people that come back and say the machine isn’t working. So we check, and almost always it is working. They just don’t know how to operate it. I’m not sure how else to tell them.

The video depict three scenarios with different health professionals and patients in various situations. This demonstrates difficulties in accessing hospital services, understanding information provided by health care professionals and applying information to support self management.

The health professionals’ response may be one of annoyance and frustration with the patient, but probably also concern. They could also have a sense of embarrassment that they didn’t realise that the patient misunderstood or had not learnt a particular task to the point that they could undertake it. They may wonder why the person misunderstood or was unable to follow the health professional’s directions. The health professional could also potentially be worried due to the realisation that this incident could indicate ongoing difficulties that ultimately result in poorer health outcomes for the patient.

Thinking about these scenarios from the health professionals perspective how do you think a health professional in these situations would feel when they realised that the patient had been unable to access services, misunderstood or was unable to apply information provided?

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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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