Patients’ and providers’ perceptions of the impact of health literacy on communication in pulmonary rehabilitation
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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most prevalent form of chronic respiratory diseases worldwide. Pulmonary rehabilitation, including self-management education, highlights the importance of good patient-provider communication in establishing optimal care. There is a growing awareness of the potential impact of health literacy (HL) on the patients' access to and understanding of medical information. This study was designed to explore the patients' and health care professionals' (HCPs) perceptions of the role of HL in health communication. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with 12 patients and 20 HCPs at a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center in Metropolitan Toronto. Although the term health literacy was not familiar to many patients, the contribution of knowledge to patient well-being was consistently identified by patients and HCPs. Barriers to communication included provider time constraints and the use of medical jargon. For providers they also included patient characteristics, language, culture and awareness of health resources. Approaches that might improve communication incorporated family support, peer support, better print and visual teaching material and a trusting empathic patient-provider relationship. The findings provide an increased understanding of patients' and providers' perceptions of HL as a barrier to effective communication of medical information to patients with COPD as well as approaches that might improve this communication.
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