AMA recognizes UVa Health System's patient communication programs


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va, June 28, 2005 The University of Virginia Health System is one of eight hospitals in the United States, and the only hospital in Virginia and the Washington, D.C area, winning recognition from The American Medical Association (AMA) for developing exemplary programs to improve communication between health care professionals and patients. Nearly 80 hospitals from across the country were nominated for the honor.

"UVa is proud to be nationally recognized for our efforts in patient communication," said R. Edward Howell, vice president and CEO of the UVa Medical Center. "Language barriers, low health literacy levels and cultural differences can affect the quality of care that patients receive and we are committed to the very best quality care available anywhere."

"At UVa, over sixty percent of the adults who come in for surgery have some type of communication barrier, including deafness, problems from the effects of a stroke or literacy and language difficulties," said Dr. Claudette Dalton, a UVa anesthesiologist and director of Community-Based Medical Education. "We are lucky to work in an institution that recognizes communication barriers in our patient population and supports programs to eliminate those barriers."

UVa has major initiatives in place to provide optimal care for patients who have communication difficulties. Among them, UVa has what's believed to be the only health literacy curriculum in a medical school to help doctors-in-training deal with low literacy patients. UVa also uses a 'repeat back' method for all patients who come in for pre-anesthesia evaluation and testing. Patients are asked to repeat back complex pre-anesthesia instructions. This has dramatically reduced cancellation and delay rates for surgery. 'Repeat back' is also used to obtain informed consent from patients before surgery.

UVa is also aware of the large and growing number of patients with limited English proficiency. UVa has an extensive interpreter service on site, including paid and volunteer staff, and has set up a novel International Family Medicine Clinic to meet the needs of immigrant and refugee patients from around the world who now make their home in Virginia.

In addition, UVa provides extensive sign language interpretation for deaf and hard-of-hearing patients. The hospital also works to maintain open communication with patient populations with non-traditional health beliefs, such as Jehovah's Witnesses or members of an ashram, to protect their individual rights.

"To ensure that all patients receive the highest quality of care, physicians must work closely with hospitals to promote effective communication with patients," said AMA President John C. Nelson, M.D., M.P.H. "The programs developed by these innovative hospitals will serve as the models for many of our nation's health care facilities and help all doctors better meet the needs of their patients."

The AMA Ethical Force Program works to help health care organizations assess and strengthen their commitment to ethical issues in medical care. The project to recognize innovative hospitals, funded in part by the Commonwealth Fund, is conducted by the American Medical Association's Institute for Ethics in collaboration with the American Hospital Association's Health Research and Educational Trust.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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