Online Program

Relationship between health literacy and patients' experiences of physician-patient communication in South Korea

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Don Sim, MPH, Korean-American Educational Commission, Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Jennifer M. Kowalsky, MS, MPH, Department of Psychology, Ohio University, Athens, OH
Background: Though health illiteracy is prevalent globally, some countries are more disproportionately affected than others; South Korea has reported health illiteracy rates from 43% to 76%. Importantly, effective physician-patient communication has been shown to reduce the impact of low literacy. The goal of this study was to understand how health literacy relates to patients’ perceptions of physician communication in South Korea. 

Method: One hundred and fifty two patients were recruited at a family medicine clinic at Pusan National University Hospital. After giving written consent, patients completed a brief questionnaire assessing demographic information, the Newest Vital Sign (a measure of health literacy), and the Interpersonal Processes of Care Survey (IPC, a measure of patients’ ratings of the quality of physician communication).  

Results: Correlation analyses identified significant relationships between health literacy and age (r = -0.52, p < 0.001), level of education (rs = 0.38, p < 0.001) and the hurried communication subscale of the IPC (r = -0.20, p < 0.05).  A subsequent linear regression analysis found that health literacy significantly predicted hurried communication scores (F(1, 150) = 6.33, p <0.05), with higher health literacy predicting poorer ratings of physician communication.

Conclusion: Current literature emphasizes the need for physicians to focus on tailoring communication for low literate patients. Our results show that patients with adequate health literacy skills may have different expectations and communication preferences when interacting with their physician. Additional research examining the role of cultural norms in physician-patient communication is recommended.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Public health or related education
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines

Learning Objectives:
List the aspects of physicians’ communication skills that are significantly associated with patients’ health literacy skills. Describe the Korean healthcare system and how it impacts physician-patient communication. Explain the need for physicians to undergo cultural communication training in order to better communicate with ethnically diverse patients, particularly Asians. Discuss the importance of system-level factors in treating and improving health outcomes of low literate patients.

Keyword(s): Health Literacy, Communication

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present this research because I was fully responsible in designing, conducting, and completing the proposed study under the acceptance terms of the U.S. Fulbright Program.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.