As part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the importance of patient safety, leaders of University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City today announced the winner of the hospital’s 2013 Great Catch Award, which honors health care providers who take action to prevent harm to patients. March 3 to 9 is Patient Safety Awareness Week.
Cathy Morse, RN, discovered that a patient diagnosed with diabetes had not been taking his medications for a significant length of time, so his blood sugars were out of control. The patient told his nurse that he could not read or write, so he didn't know how or why these medications were important.
Morse sat down with the patient and used “plain language” techniques to color code the names on the medication bottles with his medication sheet. They reviewed all this information until the patient understood how to take his medications correctly. Within two months the patient’s blood sugar levels dropped to near normal. Since then, this patient has taken a literacy class, passed the test for his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and is now employed as an over-the-road trucker. This is a good catch of identifying a patient who didn't understand his medications, taking the time to resolve the problem, and improved the patient's outcomes and quality of life.
"Cathy was instrumental in helping this patient manage his diabetes. Patients who are compliant with their medications are able to reduce the incidence of long-term complications due to diabetes,” said Kenneth Kates, CEO, UI Hospitals and Clinics. “This is a classic example of the importance of ensuring that patients are communicated with in a way that they understand. Making sure that patient education materials meet health literacy readability standards for patients is a crucial step towards preventing adverse outcomes.”
UI Hospitals and Clinics recently approved a new patient education policy to address literacy and readability of their patient education materials.
Plain language communication uses everyday language, and focuses on what patients need to know to care for themselves. Plain language communication is especially important in health care, where research shows that patients forget 80 percent of what their doctor tells them as soon as they leave their appointment and 50 percent of what patients do recall is incorrect.