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Does the use of a glossary aid patient understanding of the letters sent to their general practitioner?

Brown, Clare E; Roberts, Nicola J; Partridge, Martyn R


Clare E Brown

Martyn R Partridge


The NHS Plan suggests that all patients should be offered copies of letters regarding their treatment which are currently sent from a specialist clinic to their general practitioner (GP). Previous work has suggested that this enhances patient satisfaction, but medical letters can be difficult to understand. This report concerns the production and evaluation of a lung disease glossary to enhance patient understanding of terms used within the letter sent to their GP. Non-clinical staff reviewed 219 letters sent to GPs and words not likely to be understood by patients were listed and used to produce a glossary of 133 terms. One hundred and thirty-one participants from nine respiratory outpatient clinics in a London teaching hospital were sent the glossary and a questionnaire with their copy of the letter also sent to their GP. Of the 131 participants, 93 patients (71%) returned the questionnaire. Eighty-three (89%) found the glossary useful and the number of words checked ranged from 0 to 14 with a median of three words. Those who did not find the glossary useful explained that their understanding was already optimal or that the words they did not understand were not contained within the glossary. This was usually because the words related to non-respiratory comorbidities. This study confirms that the inclusion of a specialty specific glossary with the patients' copy of the letter being sent to their GP is appreciated by patients and appears to aid their understanding.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Oct 1, 2007
Publication Date 2007-10
Deposit Date Aug 30, 2022
Journal Clinical Medicine
Print ISSN 1470-2118
Electronic ISSN 1473-4893
Publisher Royal College of Physicians
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Issue 5
Pages 457-460
Keywords general practitioner's letters, glossary, letters to patients, patient understanding
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