Tag Archives: communication

When Health Care Is a Foreign Language: Improving How Patients Navigate the System

If you have poor health literacy, then the average medicine bottle makes as much sense to you as this warning sign did to me when I saw it in Paris. (You are confused.)
If you have poor health literacy, then the average medicine bottle makes as much sense to you as this warning sign did to me when I saw it in Paris. (You are confused.)

It shouldn’t shock you to hear that health literacy is a problem. According to Pfizer, around 90 million Americans struggle with health literacy, which is commonly defined as being able to use health information effectively to obtain appropriate care and make health decisions. Skills under the overarching category of health literacy include reading, numeracy, analytical skills, and decision-making skills. Together, these skills allow a person to use health information appropriately. Unfortunately, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 90% of American adults have difficulty effectively using everyday¬†health information. As you might imagine, poor health literacy is associated with poor health outcomes (Berkman et al., 2004). There are at least four separate issues contributing to the inability of patients to effectively navigate health information:

  • A lack of familiarity with the bureaucratic processes of health care
  • A lack of familiarity with the biological processes of health
  • Confusing terminology that is not personally relevant
  • Badly written or presented information

Continue reading When Health Care Is a Foreign Language: Improving How Patients Navigate the System

Listen for Opportunity’s Knocks

This kid sure noticed the money in the tree! [Has anyone ever wondered how bizarre a stock photo shoot must be?] Image from Thinkstock
This kid sure noticed the money in the tree! [Has anyone ever wondered how bizarre a stock photo shoot must be?] Image from Thinkstock
One blog I follow is the Evil HR Lady, written by Suzanne Lucas. Lucas recently posted a column with some simple strategies for being more aware of career opportunities that might be readily available.

Lucas talks about a recent study where researchers pinned dollar bills to low-hanging tree branches in pedestrian areas and observed whether people noticed and took the money. A surprisingly small number of them saw the money–and even that figure plummeted when the person was on a cell phone. Lucas asks, if we miss an opportunity as money literally dangling from a tree at eye level, what opportunities are we overlooking in our careers? Continue reading Listen for Opportunity’s Knocks

Health Coach? Try the Element of Surprise

The element of surprise in action--I bet you didn't know what Abraham Lincoln and adhesive bandages have in common.
The element of surprise in action–I bet you didn’t know what Abraham Lincoln and adhesive bandages have in common.

“Ugh. I already know what you’re going to tell me. Eat less food and get more exercise, right?”

This is common feedback I’ve heard during user testing for the software products I work on. Our coaching programs address various health and lifestyle concerns, and indeed, much of the advice boils down to eating differently and moving more. After all, that is how you lose weight, improve your heart health, control your blood sugar, etc. There’s no magic pill that will let you avoid dietary and activity changes and still get the same health results.

Unfortunately we can lose our users’ interest when the message we deliver is exactly the one they’re expecting to hear. Worse in the case of health behavior, the message is often one they’ve heard before and that has not helped them. “Eat fewer calories” is a lot easier said than done. Users are bored by the same old advice, and they will tune you out as soon as they perceive that you’re dishing it out. Continue reading Health Coach? Try the Element of Surprise

Three Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

This is me blending work and personal; I took this photo during a work meeting by the pool in Orlando.
This is me blending work and personal; I took this photo during a work meeting by the pool in Orlando.

Flexible work schedules are awesome, but they also have a dark side. As someone who works from home on occasion and can sometimes flex her schedule, I know how easy it can be to blend the boundaries between work and personal life. Different balances work well for different people. For me, I am more effective at work and happier at home if I can set up a dividing line between the two and really be “off” sometimes. Regardless of your preference, it helps to have some control and oversight of your work and personal tasks.

Here are three things I do to better maintain a work-life balance: Continue reading Three Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

How to Research, 2014-Style

Timely and cute visual joke about keyboard shortcuts!

A few years ago, I read an article¬†making a strong argument that Ctrl-F is the most important computer skill for the modern researcher or student. For those of you who don’t know about Ctrl-F, it’s the keyboard shortcut that allows you to search for content in a page. It is one of my most-used shortcuts; I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I use it every single day, whether to find my place in a Twitter feed, seek out notes left for me by a colleague in a document, or locate the information I want to cite.

Yet, the Atlantic interviewed a Google “search anthropologist” (side note: WHAT?! What a cool job!), Dan Russell, who said NINETY PERCENT of people don’t know about Ctrl-F. That, my friends, is crazy. Continue reading How to Research, 2014-Style

The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning. Continue reading The Power of Beautiful Design

Innovation by Argumentation

I’m hard-pressed to think of any professional work where innovation doesn’t matter. If you develop products, offer services, or any combination thereof, it’s important to work on consistently improving and evolving. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

At the same time, many workplaces, including my own, have a culture of respect that can sometimes limit our ability to debate with one another. That can be a hindrance because argument is actually a good method for creativity. Check out this article about why and how:

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1669329/dont-brainstorm-argue

One comment on the article points out that argument really takes place post-brainstorm, when some ideas have been generated to discuss. Continue reading Innovation by Argumentation

Saying No

I’m not a huge tv watcher, but lately I’ve started watching the show The Good Wife. I’m only five years late to the party. The Good Wife stars Julianna Marguiles as Alicia Florrick, a lawyer returning to the work force after her husband is jailed for political misdeeds. It took me a while to realize it, but one of the reasons I like the show so much is that Alicia, despite being “the good wife” who stood beside her husband as he admitted corruption, is actually a strong female character. One of her best traits? Continue reading Saying No