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Health Communication

Health care cannot exist without communication. Diagnoses, treatments, taking medication and healthier behaviour depends largely on how doctors and patients communicate with each other. But what exactly do we know about how this works and about how we can improve this communication? This is an interesting interdisciplinary field of research with large societal relevance, that communication scientists from the faculty of arts are working on, together with partners from the health care sector.

A broad field of research in collaboration with various partners

The research in health communication takes different forms. Dr. Mike Huiskes uses detailed interaction analysis to investigate the development of communication skills of orthopaedic surgeons-in-training in the UMCG. On basis of his results, teaching materials and assessment instruments will be developed together with the orthopaedics department. Professor Tom Koole has conducted research on treatment adherence of asthma patients in collaboration with the Isala hospital in Zwolle. Why do patients treated by hospital specialists take their medication better than when they only see their GP? Video recordings of asthma consultations are examined for an answer. In both cases graduate students are closely involved in the study as part of their applied research training.

Also the role of the patient is taken very seriously. PhD student Ruth Koops van ´t Jagt is doing research in the EU-project IROHLA on ‘Health Literacy’ for older adults. This group often experiences difficulties in the interaction with doctors and in reading medical information. Koops van ’t Jagt used focus group discussions to establish the different domains in which these difficulties are experienced. For these domains she developed photo novels together with external partners, with the aim of making patients more confident during the interaction with their GP. This communication tool is spread through GP waiting rooms and via the website The photo novels will appear also in English, German, Italian and Hungarian and will be tested in different researches in the next few years.

Photo novels help to improve patient's communication with the doctor
Photo novels help to improve patient's communication with the doctor

Margot Jager has done her PhD in collaboration with C4Youth (a group of mental health institutions) on the experience and needs of adolescents in mental healthcare. The ongoing PhD projects of Joëlle Ooms and Lennis Donné also show the breadth of health communication. They are conducting research on respectively the effects of alarming health messages on health behaviour and on the effects on health behaviour of informal conversations about health and risky behaviour like using alcohol and having unsafe sex.

A new knowledge platform with a solid base

The collaboration between the University Medical Centre Groningen (UMCG) and the communication scientists has been ongoing for several years, but it has been formalized in September 2015 when the Health Communication Platform was founded. In this platform is an important step to a structural collaboration in which all the activities are brought together and are made visible.

You could also have a look at the video below in which Margot Jager presents her research in the field of Health Communication.

Last modified:19 December 2022 10.34 a.m.
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