JCAHO asks clinicians to speak plain English

Experts agree that if the industry is to keep lowering the rate of medical errors and unsafe care, patients will have to monitor their own care and speak up when it appears that something's wrong. But if professional caregivers can't speak in a jargon-free manner--addressing the patient at their level of literacy or respect cultural differences--that's virtually impossible. That's why JCAHO is launching what it calls a "call to action" intended to close these communication gaps. JCAHO has created a series of solutions intended make effective communications possible, as well as preparing to pursue public policy changes intended to help close cultural, literacy and language gaps.

JCAHO is proposing 35 strategies for dealing with health literacy gaps, some of which include:

  • Re-design of informed consent forms and the whole informed consent process
  • Use of communication methods such as the patient-doctor "teach back"
  • Integration of patient communication into physician pay-for-performance programs
  • Giving med mal discounts to physicians who use patient communication techniques

This effort follows on the JCAHO "SpeakUp educational program, which encourages patients to let caregivers know when they suspect that care is inappropriate or in error.

For more about JCAHO's health literacy initiative:
- see their press release
- review their paper on the subject (.pdf)