Editor's note: Tom Donnelly is vice president, head of medtech at Branding Science, Doylestown, Pa. Tatiana Barakshina is founding partner of Bazis, Naperville, Ill. Jim Kirk, now retired, is former vice president of Quintiles, Weymouth, Mass. Bill Stone is director, content strategy at Sommer Consulting, Langhorne, Pa. Heather Ashley-Collins is vice president, research solutions at Schlesinger Group, Baltimore. 

Health literacy (HL) is normally thought of as a patient skill that allows them to understand important written information about their health care. In fact, HL spans both written and spoken words and effective health care communication requires that it be used not only by health care users (i.e., patients) but by health care professionals as well.

In this article, we: provide context for a current research study on physician-patient communication; describe the method of our qualitative research with both cohorts; discuss the key findings we learned about physician communication styles; and present implications for researchers, providers and marketing communication (marcom) professionals.

The Intellus Health Literacy Initiative (HLI) is a coalition of volunteers dedicated to harnessing the power of health literacy in market research to improve patient outcomes. The HLI was established in 2014. Since that time, we have created original content, conducted novel research and spoken at national conferences to increase awareness of the vital role that health literacy can, does and should play in the health care market research industry. The research study discussed in this article is an extension of a survey we administered to patients, physicians and pharmacists. The results of the study, reported in an article in the October 2017 issue of Quirk’s,1 validated that optimizing written materials (such as booklets, patient package inserts, flyers, newsletters, etc.) with HL best practices improves ...