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Communication Competences are the Key! A Model of Communication for the Health Professional to Optimize the Health Literacy – Assertiveness, Clear Language and Positivity

Background: Communication is an essential dimension of human life and of social spheres, such as health sphere, and concretely of therapeutic relations. And having health decides the human well-being. However, Europeans face an urging problem related with low levels of health literacy and human communication in doctor-patient relationship has not concentrated in doses of an effective comprehension, indispensable to the health treatment. There are several studies on the need to use communication competences due to better health outcomes are based on the ability to communicate with patients. And studies show that a fragile communication quality within health professional influences the relationship between low health literacy and a deficient health. This article focuses on the contribution of communication competences, used by healthcare professionals in the clinical relationship with patients, to improve therapeutic adherence through a better understanding of health instructions and, hence, higher competences in health literacy. It is a main and specific goal to construct and validate by health specialists a model of communication competences, that includes the interdependent use of assertiveness, clear language and positivity by the healthcare professional.

Methods and findings: The research is based on the literature review and on technique of focus group (FG), used to obtain validation of the 3-factor model of communication by health specialists. The four focus groups are composed by Portuguese medical doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and specialized professors on health literacy. A semi-structured script and a 40-item list, that configures the quantitative form to complete the qualitative approach, allows to ascertain the items / indicators that the participants most associate with the three interdependent variables / factors of health communication. Operationalizing the model and decomposing the three key factors / variables of model, all the participants in focus group validate the model and most punctuate, in assertiveness, active behavior, ability to listen and ability to openly speak; in clarity, the simple language, utilization of verbs; and, in positivity, orientation to a positive behavior of the patient.

Conclusion: The results confirm that the investment in the communication competences by the health professional is reflected in the optimization of the results on the health literacy of the patient. Concretely, the concerted use of assertiveness, clarity (of language) and positivity are a key solution to the optimization of health literacy and clinical practices, recognized and validated by the participants in the focus groups.


Célia Belim* and Cristina Vaz De Almeida

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