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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This essay describes health literacy as the range of skills that individuals need to optimally function in the healthcare setting, as well as the interplay between these literacy skills and the literacy-related demands and expectations of an increasingly complex healthcare environment. The connection between limited health literacy and health outcomes is reviewed, with an emphasis on how limited health literacy contributes to health disparities. The essay introduces the concept of bidirectional communication to frame the discussion about challenges associated with interactive communication in the medical setting, then describes strategies for effective communication, including the use of “universal precautions” or plain language for all as a means of effectively communicating information to patients, the importance of avoiding jargon, and the central role of ensuring comprehension. Finally, the chapter introduces newer areas of interest including numeracy and medication safety.

Keywords: health communication, health literacy, numeracy, doctor-patient communication, teach-back

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