Medical Literacy: Getting the Information You Need At Your Next Visit to the Doctor

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An editorial in Glaucoma Today speaks to doctors about being careful to make sure patients understand all of the medical information set before them so that they can make informed choices and best take care of their own conditions.  The author, Eydie Miller-Ellis, MD, gives her colleagues the following check list to keep in mind:

1. Slow down. Communication can be improved by speaking slowly and by spending a small amount of additional time with each patient.
2. Use plain, nonmedical language.
3. Show or draw pictures. Visual images can improve the patient’s recall of information.
4. Limit the amount of information provided—and repeat it.
5. Use the “teach-back” technique. Confirm that patients understand by asking them to repeat back instructions.
6. Create a shame-free environment. Encourage questions.

If your eye doctor, or any other medical professional that you visit, has not read this article, you may be able to use these points to your own advantage (teach the teacher, if you will) so that you walk out of your appointment empowered and informed.

Ask the doctor to slow down and speak in terms that make sense to you.  Do not be afraid to ask questions.  You are your own best advocate and, when it comes to going home and self-administering medications like those you may be prescribed for glaucoma or other conditions, your ability to follow the doctor’s instructions can play a vital role in your health.