Applied Communication Studies professor contributes to field of Health Communication

Health communication skills cannot be learned by reading books only, but, rather, by a combination of theory, principles and real case scenarios, according to Applied Communication Studies professor Min Liu.

Applied Communication Studies professor Min Liu.

Along with clinical professor at the School of Pharmacy Lakesha Butler, Liu wrote a textbook called “Pharmacy Patient Communication” that will be published in the next months.

Liu said the main features of the book are hands-on communication exercises.

The textbook combines communication theories with real-life application through patient cases with the objective to develop communication skills in providers and to improve patient-pharmacist communication, which, in turn, will improve health outcomes, according to Butler.

“With each chapter we provide a problematic communication dialogue and then the improved communication dialog,” Liu said.

Those exercises were generated based on the professional experiences of Butler and interviews with experts.

According to Liu, the textbook’s goal is to build communication skills and competency in pharmacy students so they can learn how to effectively communicate with diverse patient groups.

“Communication skills are vital for the profession of pharmacy,” Butler said.

“Without quality communication, [it] doesn’t matter how good you are, your patients will not benefit from your expertise,” Liu added.

“Pharmacy Patient Communication” also emphasizes patient-centered communication challenges, presented by patient characteristics such as language, cultural differences and low health literacy.

According to Liu, pharmacist professionals must understand how these characteristics affect communication with these patients so they can effectively meet their needs.

“Health care providers have a professional obligation to make their services available to folks who may come with a different cultural background or a specific language, for instance,” Liu said.

After the publication, the authors expect to be able to enhance the 2nd edition by developing a supplemental visual aid of patient-pharmacist interactions discussed in the textbook, according to Butler.

Liu said offering material in video format would make the exercises and dialogues more useful as a teaching tool and the analysis more interesting and relevant.

Liu and Butler mentioned the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between professors.

“I feel it is very beneficial to collaborate across disciplines and learn how to
use each other’s expertise to be more effective,” Butler said. “We are so used to working in silos that we miss opportunities to discover our areas of overlap and capitalize on those opportunities.”

Liu said they also hope to “develop continuing education material to test out the book with people that are currently working on the field to give us some feedback to improve the book.”

In addition to her doctorate in Health Communication from North Dakota State University, Liu holds a degree in Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.

“I wanted to know about public health to help me become a better colleague to work [with] in the field,” Liu said.

Liu added that communication between health providers and patients is a very important issue in the U.S.

“It is upon us, educators, to actually provide them (students) the tools to improve,” Liu said.


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