Saturday, October 13, 2018

All About Having a Clearn Understanding

As a community patient advocate I spend many hours with friends, family and community members in healthcare environments. One thing I've noticed, over the past 10 years strides have been taken to help ensure individuals who speak a different language have an interpreter and/or printed material in their primary language. In addition, some facilities usage of graphics have aided greatly to convey vital health information and navigation throughout facilities.
One area I often see that still has a way to go is to ensure what is said by the provider is completely understood by the patient. Just recently a triage nurse said to my cousin,"so you have CHF" and to her that had absolutely no meaning. Before I told her the meaning, Congestive Heart Failure, her  response was "if  you say so, I guess that is what I have". Imagine if she had very little concept of the definition of CHF chances are she had even less understanding of the consequences of her diagnosis.
The use of medical abbreviations and acronyms can be confusing and often intimidating to someone without a medical background or low health literacy. Health literacy is not only important when an individual utilizes the healthcare system but it  plays a vital part in prevention and wellness.
The first step an individual can take is to be advocates for themselves in the healthcare system. Providers only know you do not understand something unless you inform them of that. Your overall course of adequate and quality care depends on good communication. Take steps to do your part in this two way system called communication by learning "Questions to ask your doctor". Never feel you do not deserve answers and if you have a doctor unwilling to take time for your questions...perhaps it is time for a new one.

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