Samuel Beckett, a Nobel Laureate in literature from Ireland, produced some of his work in the French language. What may seem odd is that this highly gifted linguist subsequently found it difficult to translate his own material into English, his native language. Apart from variations in vocabulary that distinguish one language from another, even within the same one, communication impediments may arise.
Depending on their level of health literacy, patients can be at a disadvantage in understanding terminology and jargon used by clinicians. Superimposed on differences in understanding spoken and written words is the impact semiotics has on the process of communication in the form of facial gestures, tone of voice, clothing (e.g., white coats worn by health professionals signifying knowledge authority status), and personal appearance (e.g., age, gender, race/ethnicity, body weight, and presence of tattoos and piercings).
Hundreds of millions of interactions occur between clinicians and patients in the U.S. each year, and the quality of the experiences shared by them will help to govern what eventually transpires in the form of beneficial health outcomes. For example, an evaluation of patient–reported outcome measures (PROMs) that appeared on April 15, 2019 in the journal Cancer indicated that more than half of the most commonly used cancer PROMs do not meet plain‐language best practices. This finding may have implications for the quality of care, safety, and experience/satisfaction involving patients characterized by low health literacy.
Access to electronic health records has made it possible for patients to review information written about them. Nevertheless, depending on the branch of health care involved, there is ample room for misinterpretation. Sociolinguistic differences between patients and clinicians can lead to variable misunderstandings of written words that may limit patients’ engagement in their own health care. That outcome should come as no surprise because even within the professional community itself, a veritable Tower of Babel may exist. As an illustration, a radiologist might communicate imaging results to other members of the health care team using terms, such as “probably represents,” which in turn could be interpreted differently by referring clinicians.
Interprofessional education and practice currently is a topic of considerable interest and importance in health care. Data reported on March 22, 2019 in the Journal of Interprofessional Care reveal, however, that there was little consistency in the terminology used by accreditors to describe the learning outcomes that healthcare professions educational programs were expected to embrace. A conclusion reached was that inconsistency in terminology across accreditors found in this study is a clear impediment to healthcare professions educational programs creating a shared mental model for their IPE outcomes. A risk is that until accreditation bodies agree to one such model for all aspects of education, IPE may continue to be perceived by students as an ‘add-on’ to their curricula rather than as an integral part of becoming a health professional.
More Articles from TRENDS May 2019
PRESIDENT’S CORNER—ASAHP MEMBER FOCUS
Ken Johnson from Weber State University is featured in this issue of TRENDS. Read More
BIPARTISAN HEALTH LEGISLATION
Describes a bipartisan bill in Congress to reauthorize workforce programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act and action in the House of Representatives to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). Read More
HEALTH REFORM DEVELOPMENTS
Discusses health challenges in rural areas, Medicare for All legislation, and predictive analytics to address social determinants of health. Read More
DEVELOPMENTS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Describes an attempt to correct a mistake in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017; re-introduction of the Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Act of 2019; a Trump administration proposal to reduce the Pell Grant surplus; and laws passed by states involving student loan companies. Read More
QUICK STAT (SHORT, TIMELY, AND TOPICAL)
Pregnancy-Related Deaths, United States, 2011-2015
Severe Joint Pain And Physical Inactivity Among Adults With Arthritis-United States
Wireless Sensor System To Monitor Babies In The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
Electric Field-Based Dressing Disrupts Bacterial Biofilm Infection To Restore Healing Read More
AVAILABLE RESOURCES ACCESSIBLE ELECTRONICALLY
Advancing Patient-Centered Care For Individuals With Multiple Chronic Conditions
Effects Of Early Care And Education On Children’s Health
Addressing Social Determinants Of Health Through Housing Improvements Read More
RANDOMIZED CLINICAL TRIALS AND THE WEIGHT OF A SOUL
Although progress has been made in research to measure the effectiveness of clinical interventions, similar lapses found in a study from the early 20th century can be observed in studies conducted today. Read More
VALIDATION OF DIGITAL HEALTH SOLUTIONS
Refers to how confidence remains low in the production of validated digital health solutions and how more standardized and transparent kinds of validation are needed. Read More