Communication techniques for patients with low health literacy: a survey of physicians, nurses, and pharmacists

Am J Health Behav. 2007 Sep-Oct:31 Suppl 1:S96-104. doi: 10.5555/ajhb.2007.31.supp.S96.


Objective: To explore the self-reported techniques used by health care professionals to enhance communication with patients with low health literacy.

Methods: A survey was administered to physicians (n=99), nurses (n=87), and pharmacists (n=121) attending continuing education programs on patient safety and health care quality. Each was asked to rate communication-enhancing strategies by frequency of use and effectiveness with patients with low health literacy.

Results: Using simple language (94.7%), handing out printed materials (70.3%), and speaking more slowly (67.3%) were the most commonly used strategies. Strategies currently recommended by health literacy experts were less routinely used.

Conclusions: Further research is needed that evaluates the effectiveness of communication strategies for patients with limited literacy skills within diverse clinical encounters.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Educational Status*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Pharmacists*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*