MOOC review – Health Literacy and Communication for Health Professionals

A must-do if you write simulation scenarios and a should-do for SPs.

I understand that health literacy and communication are not obvious topics for a simulation website but if you scratch the surface of this course you will see just how relevant these issues are. For anyone involved in scenario design, it is vitally important to have an understanding of health professional communication and health literacy to understand how these issues influence practitioner/patient relationships.

As a bonus, this course also contains some interviews with simulated patients about their experiences in helping to teach health literacy and communication to health professionals.

The course content was developed by University of Nebraska in the United States. There are some references to US health policy and programs but largely the content is relevant to all health professionals.

There are many resources provided as supplementary material in this course. Most are US based but again, almost all are relevant to those working in healthcare outside the US. Overall, I really liked the content but wasn’t so keen on some of the assessments.

There are weekly quizzes which I found quite easy, but then again I am an experienced health professional so would expect to be able to answer them correctly.

There are also points allocated for forum posts, which I dislike as I don’t usually participate in forums when I complete MOOCs. I completed all the posts and tried to make them worthwhile or interesting, but when everyone has to comment you end up getting lots of repetition in the comments made. I prefer forum participation to be optional but this is just my personal preference and I know a lot of people like them.

There are four assignments for the course, which I thought were quite worthwhile. They involved producing an infographic and an icon array to communicate a health message, interviewing a health professional, and planning a way to improve an organisation’s approach to health literacy.

The downside of these assessments was the tight timelines for submission and peer review. Peer assessments when done well like this are great, the tight timelines however are a necessary evil.  

My advice to those of you who are involved in writing scenarios is to at least look at some of the content in this course, even if you don’t plan on completing it. There are lots of patient stories that will give you some ideas for when you are writing scenarios.

Additionally, having a better understanding of the efforts being made at an organisational level to support health literacy will help you to write more comprehensive scenarios. It might even inspire you to write a scenario focussed on health literacy and communication.

This course would also be relevant to SPs, so that they can understand the different experiences that patients have when they consult with health professionals. It will help the SP to better represent the health consumer and adapt their communication style appropriately to the character they are portraying.