It took the University of California, San Francisco a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence program to discover what many patients all over the world already know- and have been saying for years- it is sometimes difficult to understand what their doctor is trying to tell them. This can be exacerbated in the current climate of using telemedicine where possible.
In an article released this week, AI Points the Way to Better Doctor-Patient Communication, author Laura Kurtzman reports:
"A computer analysis of hundreds of thousands of secure email messages between doctors and patients found that most doctors use language that is too complex for their patients to understand. The study also uncovered strategies some doctors use to overcome communication barriers."
The study involved various disciplines and institutions, from MD's. to cognitive scientists. It is especially important that a patient is able to understand what they have been told- in order to gain the full benefit from their doctor's communications. While this applies mainly to patients with 'low health literacy,' according to the study, every medical professional needs to be aware of how they communicate. Kurtzman adds that "...most doctors did not do this. Only about 40 percent of patients with low health literacy had doctors who used simple language with them."
The solution, is for medical jargon to be left to medical professionals communicating with each other- and for communicating with patients- doctors need to make the diagnosis and follow-up instructions easy for patients to understand.