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Low health literacy puts patients at risk

Physician Practice Advisor, March 28, 2007

Low health literacy and poor physician communication skills are putting patients at risk for medical errors, according to a white paper, titled What Did the Doctor Say?: Improving Health Literacy to Protect Patient Safety, published by The Joint Commission.

The report examined possible errors caused by physicians using medical jargon when talking to their patients and offered 35 recommendations for protecting patient safety by improving physician-patient communication.

"Effective communication is a cornerstone of patient safety," Dennis S. O'Leary, MD, president of The Joint Commission, said in a press release. "If patients lack basic understanding of their conditions and the whats and whys of the treatments prescribed, therapeutic goals can never be realized, and patients may instead be placed in harm's way."

Click here to read The Joint Commission press release.