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Family Practice

Year: 2009  |  Volume: 26  |  Issue: 6  |  Page No.: 517 - 523

Patient health literacy and patient-physician information exchange during a visit

H Ishikawa, E Yano, S Fujimori, M Kinoshita, T Yamanouchi, M Yoshikawa, Y Yamazaki and T. Teramoto


Background. Health literacy (HL), the capacity of individuals to access, understand and use health information to make informed and appropriate health-related decisions, is recognized as an important concept in patient education and disease management.

Objective. To examine the relation of three levels of HL (i.e. functional, communicative and critical HL) to patient–physician information exchange during a visit.

Methods. Participants were 134 outpatients with type 2 diabetes who were under continuous care by four attending physicians at a university-affiliated hospital. The visit communication was recorded and analysed using the Roter Interaction Analysis System. Patient HL was measured through a self-reported questionnaire using newly developed self-rated scales of functional, communicative and critical HL. Sociodemographic and clinical characteristics and patient's perception of the information exchange were assessed for each patient through self-reported questionnaires and review of electronic medical records.

Results. Patient HL levels were related to the information exchange process during the visit. Among the three HL scales, communicative HL (the capacity to extract information, derive meaning from different forms of communication and apply new information to changing circumstances) was related to patient's perceptions of the information exchange. Further, patient communicative HL had a modifying effect on the relationship between physician's information giving and patient's perception of it, suggesting that physician's communication may be perceived differently depending on the patient's HL.

Conclusion. The exploration of patient HL may provide a better understanding of potential barriers to patient–physician communication and patient's self-management of disease.

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