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Do you always understand what your health care provider is telling you?

by Lil Cox

I presented my first public education event in my capacity as a Local Pain Educator (LPE), about the LPE Network and its role at a Health Literacy forum in Launceston last week. Health literacy is a big issue in Tasmania. Health literacy refers to our ability to understand health information presented to us, about us and our capacity and confidence to use that health information to ensure we have the best health we can. As I sat listening, impressed by the immense amount of work going on in this space, I reflected over two scenarios:

My 81 year old father has not been well. Diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (an
irregular heart beat resulting in extreme fatigue, breathlessness, lack of energy and chest pain), a condition of an aging heart. “His heart is tired”, I told the kids. Prescribed some medications by his GP and advice that it may take a while for his energy to return, we were all hopeful his situation would improve. It did not.

With Mum away in NZ and family not living close to Dad, we were struggling to make contact with him by phone. Some days passed until I finally caught Dad on the phone. I encouraged Dad to see his GP given his situation was clearly deteriorating. His response, “What’s the point? My GP won’t override the specialists’. I will have to wait until I see the specialist again.” Dad’s beliefs about the hierarchy of care, rather than the need to respond to his changing condition, prevented him from seeking help independently, even though it was desperately required.

The work we do at In Balance relies on a constant exchange of information between us as your Allied Health Practitioner and you as receivers of our care. Some of what we attempt to share with you is complicated, even for us. Do you always understand us? If not, are you confident enough to question us?

  • It matters, that you are able to make sound decisions about your health.
  • It matters, that you can successfully access the correct information regarding your condition and the correct service or service provider.
  • It matters, that you can understand the information and advice your clinician is sharing with you. If not, let them know. Be Brave.
  • It matters, that you can use the information presented to you to make informed choices about your care.
  • And most importantly, it matters, that if you think things regarding your health are not right, that you let your clinician/primary health care practitioner know.
  • You know your body best.
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