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A Quest to Change the Common Face of Health Care

A Quest to Change the Common Face of Health Care

“Research shows that a lot of com­munication and our ability to connect with those around us is nonverbal; it’s what you see,” says Kyle DeCarlo, a man­ager of medical policy at Johns Hopkins Health Care. “During the course of care, especially in the absence of an interpreter, standard surgical masks are a huge bar­rier—we don’t have access to lip reading or facial expressions.”

In August, he spoke at the TED Global Conference in Tanzania, Africa, about the importance of nonverbal communication. As co-founder of the Deaf Health Initia­tive (DHI), he was one of 20 innovators selected to speak as TED Global Fellows, from an international pool of thousands of applicants.

Since 2014, DHI has worked to make advo­cacy, policy changes and the creation of new medical devices designed to improve patient-provider communication. A $1,000 grant from the Johns Hopkins Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2014 allowed DeCarlo to host the first deaf cultural competency workshop for Johns Hopkins medical students.

DeCarlo, who depends on a combina­tion of sign language and access to lip reading/facial expressions, pulled from his personal experiences of growing up profoundly deaf, such as having to reschedule appointments after missing the audio cue of a nurse calling his name while in a waiting room.

With Deaf Health Initiative, DeCarlo focuses on advocacy to improve medi­cal care for the deaf and hard of hearing community, using platforms such as TED Global to share the importance of nonverbal communication and sign language exposure to an audience of nearly 1,000.

“We’re going to introduce the world to the idea that if there is an opportunity to not only improve the hospital experience for deaf and hard of hearing patients, but to also improve communication and reduce the potential for medical errors, why not do it?” 

Read a short recap of Kyle's presentation at TEDGlobal.

Read a related article in Hopkins Medicine magazine, "Making Their Voices Heard."

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