Understanding is multidimensional. For patients, families and clinicians, simply providing information or instructions is not enough. We need to connect the dots and help people understand the why and the how. ePatient Dave started the series with an urgent call to recognize that clarity is empowering, that there’s an art to clear explanation, and that with clarity we help families help themselves.
We need to create clarity around the reality of a diagnosis, the trajectory of health conditions, prognoses and all the options options. This candor is a form of compassion. Danny van Leeuwen described how clarity around his son’s and mother’s prognosis empowered his family and their physician to make a better plan. Palliative physician Michael Fratkin asked us all to slow down and take the time to understand what is the right way forward for an individual. Keren Ladin echoed this sentiment in her piece on advance care planning for those with ESRD. Taking time to have these discussions not only patient satisfaction with treatments, but reduces overuse of invasive treatments, reduces in-hospital deaths, and improves quality of life among patients and survivors.
Clarity is not accidental. It’s carefully crafted, but it should seem easy and effortless to the recipient - who are too often stressed or in pain. As Tarah Knaresboro and Anthony Duran explained, it starts with understanding and designing for the real problem, and not the presumed problem. Diana Deibel walked through how to understand and empathize with your audience. Then, as Dani Alcorn explained, thoughtful art, illustration and animation that considers patients, can show in moments what people otherwise struggle to understand. Don Rubin described the art of making our speech listenable - as so much of our communication happens in conversation.
Clarity in Action
Too often, what is complex for patients is the result of good intentions. Dr. Erica Spatz and Andi Shahu described the all-too-common medication creep that will lead to confusion for anyone. Annie Rucker described how a necklace became a tactile way to help women understand more about breast cancer screening. And Emily Azari and Dr. Elizabeth Wick described how clarity can create a faster and better recovery after surgery. And Colleen Crone spoke with doctors Judy Lyzak and Robert Stump to hear how distilling information about blood products for physicians significantly reduced unnecessary blood transfusions. And Dr. Neelum Aggarwal made a call for clinicians to think of themselves and health coaches and to create a shame-free environment.
Clarity in Communities
Dr. Aggarwal also discussed the CEERIAS program, a health literacy effort to improve timely response to stroke by partnering with the community. I wrote about how the Bigger Picture created clarity in communities to empower them to see diabetes as more than an individual’s challenge. And Casey Quinlan looked at peer forums - where she found both savvy and thoughtful peers, but also shouters. This is a space that can create support but can also be daunting to people as they try to find their way.
Thank you to all of the contributors for exploring these challenges — and for looking at all aspects of what we need to do to create clarity so that patients, families and clinicians are empowered to take care of themselves and each other.
Geri Lynn Baumblatt is the Executive Director of Patient Engagement at Emmi. She is on the board of the Journal of Patient Experience, a regular contributor to the Association for Patient Experience, and regularly participates in health literacy and shared decision making, patient engagement and experience conferences at organizations like AHRQ, the Brookings Institute, the Society for Medical Decision Making, the Beryl Institute, Stanford Medicine X, and the Center for Plain Language. Catch her in October at MedCity Engage, HARC, and the Partners Connected Health Symposium.