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Communications Services
303 Administration Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: 901/678-2843
Fax: 901/678-3607
e-mail: prnews@memphis.edu

U of M Researcher Helps Develop Health Communication App

For release: September 24, 2013
For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843

Health Communication? There’s an app for that. A new iOS app, developed in part by University of Memphis faculty member and researcher Dr. Joy Goldsmith, will assist health care professionals who are seeking help communicating with patients during difficult conversations.

The app, “Health Communication: Building Professional Skills,” allows quick and ready access to theory-driven and evidence-based communication tools that are useful in moments of tension, sorrow, fear, anxiety, awkwardness and hesitancy between health care professionals, caregivers and patients.

A recent study authored by Goldsmith and her research team showed that more communication tools and training for health care providers are needed to actualize patient-centered communication and care. The team also noted that clinicians themselves recognize the need for and desire additional communication tools and training.

“Communication skills training is still relatively underdeveloped in most health care profession curricula,” said Goldsmith, an assistant professor in Communication. “Hopefully this app will give clinicians what they need to quickly and immediately address complex yet important conversations that can facilitate patient and family understanding and ease transitions in care.”

Goldsmith developed the app with the University of Kentucky’s Elaine Wittenberg-Lyles and the University of Oklahoma’s Sandra Ragan, all members of the Clinical Communication Collaborative (CCC). The CCC provides free online teaching materials to advance a patient-centered training program called the COMFORT, a communications curriculum based on 10 years of research.

Once downloaded, Health Communication does not require Internet access and features more than 100 different communication strategies. Primary features include a quick reference guide for what to say and how to say it, and a communications toolkit that suggests important observations to make, simple ways of identifying health literacy levels, and basic ways to improve team collaboration. Common, yet difficult clinical situations in a variety of contexts (for example, bad news, decision-making and cancer recurrence) are easy to find, each with a guide that provides users with appropriate questions to ask, what to say and what to observe.

“We hope to learn about the benefits of the app through a feedback form that will appear to users who have accessed it twice,” said Goldsmith. “We hope to extend this work and create similar resources for family caregivers as well as patients.”

Health Communication is currently available for free in the iTunes store for iPhones and iPads.

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Last Updated: 9/25/13