Teach patients to communicate

Shared information is for their benefit

A program initiated by Healthy York County Coalition in York, PA, trains any interested party to teach a program titled "It's Your Health, Take Charge."

The curriculum is based on the Patient Empowerment Training of the Washington, DC-based National Partnership for Women and Families.

"We have done a lot of work to augment some of the different topics that are covered in that curriculum," says Robin K. Rohrbaugh, MSW, executive director of the Healthy York County Coalition.

The curriculum is based on the concept the patient is the most important person on the healthcare team. Therefore, the patient learns their role as a team member. They learn that in order for the physician to be fully helpful, they must share information with him or her, such as whether they can afford the medication prescribed or adhere to the exercise regimen.

Also consumers learn how to prepare for a visit to their physician. For example, they are taught to identify two or three things they want to get out of the appointment with their doctor and write down questions they have. Also they are encouraged to take a friend or family member to the appointment if they have trouble understanding the physician due to language or cultural barriers.

While physicians provide education, those attending the class learn it is their responsibility to learn about their condition, and they are taught how to do a little research. Also, they learn how to evaluate information to determine if it is reliable. For example, they are encouraged to visit web sites sponsored by credible organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association.

Steps taught to physicians are also being taught to patients. For example, those taking the class are told to bring their medications to the appointment with the physician so he or she can see the medications and find out if they are being taken correctly. Also, they are taught to initiate teach-back by stating, "This is what I understand I am supposed to do" and repeating what they thought was taught.

"It provides a way to correct misunderstanding," says Rohrbaugh.


For more information about patient empowerment training called "It's Your Health, Take Charge," contact:

• Robin K. Rohrbaugh, MSW, Executive Director, Healthy York County Coalition, York, PA. E-mail: rrohrbaugh@wellspan.org.