Empowering patients through health literacy in the informed consent process.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Medical Humanities


Medical terminology can be difficult to understand to individuals who do not normally have a background in science or healthcare. It is a language that describes the parts of the body, diagnosis and medical procedures. Health literacy is an important term to be discussed now and in the future. The general population struggles with understanding health literature, prescriptions given by the physician, the actual medications and instructions given by the pharmacist and reading an informed consent form. Health literacy and the Informed Consent process is an important approach to the practice of medicine. It is important because of the opportunities it can provide to professional staff and patients. The United States has a complex system of healthcare which includes complexity in the understanding of the words that are used in healthcare. There are barriers to effective health communication. There is low or marginal literacy, jargon, stress and increased complexity of self care, cultural and individual learning styles. There are people who have problems with quantitative data such as understanding prescription drug dosages and number of day's a medication should be taken. This dissertation examines the thoughts of clinical research professionals with using health literacy in the informed consent process. The author examines this issue within the context of the historically complex of clinical research, literary works and scientific studies. The results of an original human participants research study are presented that investigate clinical research professional's opinion about health literacy. A questionnaire is used to survey a small group of clinical research professionals who conduct clinical research studies. The questionnaire explores the area of promoting health literacy to apply practical solution to improve patient/provider communication especially in the Informed Consent process. This will result in a more comprehensive and humanistic paradigm for the informed consent process. I will argue that health literacy may be the key to empower patients in the Informed consent process.