Emily Hitchcock, M.D.
Improving Physicians’ Use of Plain Language Using the After-Visit Summary
Providence St. Vincent Internal Medicine Residency Program; Health Share of Oregon
Emily Hitchcock, M.D., is a clinician educator in the Providence St. Vincent Internal Medicine Residency with responsibility for training internal medicine residents in both outpatient and inpatient care. She is committed to excellent physician-patient communication and has developed expertise in health literacy-communicating medical concepts and medical recommendations to patients in language they can understand. She feels this is a skill all providers should master, and she is working to teach plain language to the residents in her program as well as other providers in the Portland area.
Most health providers believe their patients understand and can remember the information and instructions given during an office visit. Many providers, however, hand their patients instructions written at a collegiate reading level. Studies have shown that patients prefer medical information and instructions written in plain language, leaving out medical jargon and complicated terminology.
This project aims to improve providers’ use of plain language on the after-visit summary by teaching providers:
- the importance of using plain language in terms of impacts on patient care, patient experience and cost,
- the reading level of their previous after-visit summaries, and
- ways to change their writing style to make it more readable by more of their patients.
Through the course of the project Emily will follow the reading level of the after-visit summaries and feed that information back to the providers. In this way, she hopes to teach providers a new “best practice” to apply to their patient care.