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A user-friendly computer touchscreen enables low literacy cancer patients to more accurately report quality of life outcomes

Individuals usually must be able to read and write English in order to be included in most U.S. research studies that assess quality of life and other patient-reported outcomes. Barely literate and non-English-speaking patients often are excluded from these studies because they are unable to complete the required set of questionnaires. A user-friendly talking computer touchscreen may solve this problem, according to a recent study that was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10333).

Using this approach, Elizabeth Hahn, M.A., of Evanston Northwestern Healthcare, and her colleagues were able to successfully measure self-reported quality of life outcomes in 420 ethnically diverse cancer patients with a wide range of literacy skills and computer experience. One question at a time was presented on the computer touchscreen, accompanied by a recorded reading of the question. Various colors, fonts, and graphic images were used to enhance visibility, and a small picture icon appeared near each text element that allowed patients to replay the sound as many times as they wished.

Early results from the first 126 enrolled patients showed that patients liked the multimedia approach, and they reported that the talking touchscreen was easy to use. The researchers conclude that the talking touchscreen will allow low literacy patients to be included more readily in clinical trials, clinical practice research, quality of life studies, and health promotion/disease prevention initiatives. They have recently adapted the program for Spanish-speaking cancer patients and suggest that it may prove to be a good communication tool for health care providers and organizations, as they incorporate cultural competency principles into health services delivery practices for minorities and other underserved groups.

See "The talking touchscreen: A new approach to outcomes assessment in low literacy," by Elizabeth A. Hahn, M.A., David Cella, Ph.D., Deborah Dobrez, Ph.D., and others, in Psycho-Oncology 13, pp. 86-95, 2004.

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