Listening/Questioning Skills for Talking with Doctors

Hi Everyone,

I got this request on the IHA Health Literacy List and want to share it with you here:

I’ve been asked by a local literacy agency to help them find a “program that might help a [low literacy] parent develop the listening/questioning skills needed during meetings with doctors and medical professionals.” I’ve done some searching and identified some resources such as Healthy Roads Media, AHRQ and, plus I know about the “What to Do When Your Child Gets Sick” book from IHA. Another colleague suggested the Joint Commission videos at  I’m hoping one or more of you might know of some additional resources I’ve missed? If so, please advise – thanks in advance!

Please share any ideas you have!




Hi Everyone,

I want to pass on some other resources for helping people learn to talk more effectively with their doctors. These were shared on the IHA Health Literacy Discussion List, and I have picked out the ones that I feel could be useful in an adult education setting. Some of these are designed for adult literacy learners, and others could be used as authentic materials from which to create your own activities.

  • Health Literacy Kentucky has developed some consumer presentations that we would be happy to share – they incorporate some of the resources you mentioned + others.  They will be on the coalition website soon and I can notify the list when they are up. 
  • The Ask Me 3 program from the National Patient Safety Foundation provides a list of 3 questions that people should know about their care to be safe. Also their video is written for patients to watch. It shows a patient talking with his doctor, has his daughter with him to ask questions and take notes.
  • I would suggest Staying Healthy: An English Learner’s Guide to Health Care and Healthy Living, which is written at a 4th-5th grade level. It has a chapter on seeing the doctor, but each chapter is geared toward communicating with your doctor about the topic, and includes practice dialogs. There is a teacher’s guide that goes with this, so it can be used easily in literacy classes.

  • Say Ah!'s resources for consumers.  There is some very good and simply written information on getting the most out of your healthcare. There are Tip Sheets that you can print out in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, or Russian.  

  • Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy.  These picture stories and accompanying lesson plans are designed for English language learners, who also want to learn about the culture (including communication norms) of US health care.  As they are simple, picture-based, and designed to draw on adult learner experiences and awareness, they are adaptable for use with a wide variety of native-English speaking literacy learners as well.  While all of these picture stories can be used to instruct literacy learners on communication with healthcare providers, the one that most directly covers asking questions and clarifying information is "A Doctor's Appointment."  
  • Picture Story on Accessing Care Through the Affordable Care Act.  This picture story is in a similar format to those above but hasn't joined them on the Center for Applied Linguistics website yet.  It explores communication and information needs of people newly accessing health care with ACA coverage.
  • See also The Virginia Adult ESOL Health Literacy Toolkit  for more ideas, materials, and exploration of the healthcare communication needs of limited English proficient literacy learners, and how adult English for Speakers of Other Languages instruction can help.
  • A Health Literacy Curriculum for ESOL learners (Beginner Level), developed by the Queen’s Library Adult Literacy Program.

All the best,