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Maritza Gomez Explains How Poor Communication Hinders Treatment of Community Members

Discharged patients who can’t understand their postdischarge plan may potentially be readmitted or face devastating consequences to their health, said Maritza Gomez, program assistant for community engagement at the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.


Discharged patients who can’t understand their postdischarge plan may potentially be readmitted or face devastating consequences to their health, said Maritza Gomez, program assistant for community engagement at the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

Transcript

How does a lack of proper communication of health issues lead to poor outcomes for communities?

I have an example. Before working in this position I was a community health worker with our care team and there was a lady that kept getting readmitted in the hospital and nobody understood why she wouldn’t go to primary, why she wouldn’t go to her specialist and one day it took one person to realize when she was getting discharged that she couldn’t read. So she didn’t know, nobody took the time to even realize to ask her, “do you understand your discharge papers?” What does that look like? And from that alone she kept getting readmitted. So if you don’t take the time to even speak to the people or find out, “do you understand your discharge? Is there anything I can explain?” That’s how health outcomes come because God forbid something else would have happened it would have been worse from just not taking time to communicate with the patient.

How do you work around situations where patients might be embarrassed to discuss something or admit something is wrong?

As a community health worker it was like peeling an onion. It takes a lot of building relationships and having those conversations because yes, we’ve had times that people wouldn’t admit that they couldn’t read or they couldn’t understand. It was just letting the patient know that we’re here for them and not giving up on their care and supporting them in whatever they needed. Eventually they would open up and say okay, this is what’s going on, I can’t read or I can’t understand what this means. And it took time. It’s not something that happens right away. But at the end it’s all worthwhile once the patient starts opening up.

Do patients find it easier to open up to community health workers or nurses or someone else who is not a physician?

Working in the community I have realized that patients are more comfortable talking to us than the providers so we’re like the middleman trying to connect them back to the providers, trying to understand why that connection’s not there. So patients do feel more comfortable and open up more to us and then us trying to figure out how we can connect them back to primary or their specialties. Because at the end of the day, once we’re not there, they’re the ones that have to follow up with them and that’s who there should be providing their service.

 
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