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Effective Communication Skills in Health Care

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Healthcare literacy includes areas in language writing and speaking and the use of relevant technology to relay information and knowledge to people in the healthcare environment. Health literacy is the process in which people can acquire understanding and use health information to improve their health. Through literacy, parents and children can help in preventing disease, improving health and enhancing quality of life. (Lambert & Keogh, 2014) Health literacy also means having adequate understanding of “health-related information” so that a patient or parent/caregiver can act accordingly to what he/she has read and heard.

Listening skills are as important as reading fundamentals. How a patient understands health information can influence his/her ability to keep the doctor’s instructions and prescriptions and improve health. If parents and children are not literate and cannot easily understand health information and instructions, there can be a problem in the treatment process. (Lambert & Keogh, 2014) Health literacy encompasses areas in the educational system, mass media and the health system. It seems complex but can be simplified through a framework provided in figure 1. Figure 1. Framework for health literacy SOURCE: Lambert and Keogh (2014) Healthcare literacy is one aspect of effective healthcare communication.

But concern for communication should also focus on how the two sides of the communication process should interact. How should communication be done? One author recommends SOLER, the process of effective communication. Burnard (1997) maintains that good listening techniques can result in effective communication. The behavior of listening influences effective communication in healthcare. Egan (1990 as cited in Burnard, 1997) suggests ways in the conduct of counselor behavior and offers SOLER, an acronym in the process of effective communication.

Sit right in front of the patient Open position should be kept Lean a bit towards the patient Eye contact with the patient must be maintained Relax should not be the last word but the communication should have a relaxed atmosphere. Sitting in front of the client acknowledges the process of open communication. When the healthcare professional is opposite the client, he/she can witness all facets of communication. An open position encourages the client to speak freely. It is also a form of encouragement for the client to express his/her complaints in the treatment process.

There are actions or words that portray messages which show that doctor is listening attentively, such as the use of head nods, or plain “yes, ” or short sounds of “mm”, or gestures and words that portray attentiveness and the act of listening, or telling that the client is not alone.

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