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Communication helps a health professional give you what you need

Communication helps a health professional give you what you need

(NC) With all the technological advances in health care, one key to the best results still comes down to this: a simple exchange of information between you and your health care professional.

Making informed health care decisions is a basic legal right. For that to happen, you need a clear understanding of what comes next in your care – and in turn, health care providers need as much relevant information from you as possible.

“Informed choices start by sharing your needs, worries and wishes with your health care professional. That helps them provide the most appropriate assessment and course of action,” says Linda Gough, president of the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO).

FHRCO includes 26 regulatory colleges (www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca), which hold nearly 300,000 member professionals accountable for their conduct and practice. Part of their duty is ensuring that health care professionals are aware of their duties in obtaining informed consent for treatments or procedures. It means you give approval based on understanding the purpose; the expected benefits and potential risks; any alternatives available; and the consequences of saying “no”.

It's up to your health care professional to give you enough information to make a decision, and to make sure you understand the information and have given consent.

Being an informed health care consumer isn't always easy. The Canadian Council on Learning reports that 60% of adults lack the skills to adequately manage their health care needs.

The report focused on health literacy, which is more than just reading and writing. It gets at how well someone can sort through and interpret health-related information. Health literacy also includes the ability to ask questions, communicate with health care providers, understand the information and follow next steps.

When meeting health care professionals, people are sometimes shy to ask questions or request clarification. Each professional should offer every opportunity to do so, without making you feel rushed or awkward.

Failing to give your care professional a thorough picture or failing to fully understand what's being done or recommended, can be a health risk in itself. The Canadian Council on Learning noted that Canadians with the lowest health literacy are more than two and a half times likelier to be in poor or just fair health compared to those with the best health literacy.

“Open and clear understanding, for all partners in health care, will support the best possible outcomes,” says FHRCO's Gough

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