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Communicating with Patients  

Last Updated: May 9, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
The Patient Experience Print Page

Effective Patient Physician Interactions

Health Literacy

Creating Documents for Patients

Online Communication Tools

Published Resources


Creating Documents for Patients

Create documents your patients can read and understand.

Plain Language Contains guidelines for creating plain language materials, as well as an overview of the plain language movement and tools for trainers.

Program for Readability in Science and Medicine (PRISM) A free toolkit for researchers illustrating how to use plain language in participant materials.

Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) A readability formula that estimates the years of education a person needs to understand a piece of writing.

Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective Provides a detailed and comprehensive set of tools to help make written material easier for people to read, understand, and use.

Words Count  Contains several tools to measure readability, including CLEAR, SMOG and syllable counter.


Health Literacy

Health Literacy is defined in the Institute of Medicine report, Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusionas "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."

According to the Institute of Medicine, ninety million adult Americans have limited health literacy. 

Health literacy incorporates a range of abilities: reading, comprehending, and analyzing information; decoding instructions, symbols, charts, and diagrams; weighing risks and benefits; and, ultimately, making decisions and taking action.

20 million Americans speak poor English; 10 million speak none [Source: 2000 Census].

More than 300 languages are spoken in the United States.


Communication Tools

Ask Me 3 This program run by the National Patient Safety Foundation can help patients be an active member of their healthcare team by asking 3 important questions. 

Clear Communication focuses on providing information that is accessible to specific audiences based on cultural competence and incorporating plain language approaches and new technologies. 

Healthy People 2020:  Communicating Health: Priorities and Strategies for Progress  Overview

Health Resources and Services Administration  A free, online, go-at-your-own-pace training to help health care professionals and students improve patient-provider communication.

The National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy is aimed at making health information and services easier to understand and use. Action plan summary


Published Resources

Cover Art
Health Literacy from A to Z - Helen Osborne
ISBN: 0763745502
Publication Date: 2004-08-31

Talking with Patients - Philip R. Myerscough
ISBN: 0192621858
Publication Date: 1992-08-06

Cover Art
Communication Skills for Medicine - Margaret Lloyd; Robert Bor
ISBN: 9780702030581
Publication Date: 2009-05-08

Cover Art
Communicating with Your Patients - Christine A. Hinz
ISBN: 0899709737
Publication Date: 1999-08-01


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