The Joint Commission today released a new white paper, What Did the Doctor Say? Improving Health Literacy to Protect Patient Safety, which includes 35 recommendations that doctors and healthcare organizations can do to improve communication with patients. At a news conference announcing the papers release, Commission President Dennis OLeary noted that communication problems have been identified as the root cause of a serious medical adverse event in almost 70% of the cases in his organizations sentinel-event database.
The papers list of recommendations includes integrating successful patient communication into emerging physician pay-for-performance programs and offering medical liability insurance discounts for physicians who apply patient-centered communication techniques. OLeary said that insurance companies should be agreeable to that recommendation because they know darn well that communication problems are a huge exposure problem for them.
Also at the event was J. James Rohack, former American Medical Association chairman and current Joint Commission board secretary, who noted how control of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure is often used as a pay-for-performance measure, and said that patients need to clearly understand what they need to do and why for treatment to be successful.
Another speaker was literacy advocate Toni Cordell, who told of how childhood health problems, compounded by dyslexia, had a negative impact on her education, and led to Cordell graduating from high school while reading at a fifth-grade level. These problems left unable to read a surgical consent form that she signed without understanding. Only after the procedure did she learn that she consented to a hysterectomy.