Health Literacy

New mother with nurse

Helping Patients Become Smarter About Healthcare

Low health literacy among patients and families affects your practice every day. The term is a little misleading as it brings to mind reading and writing abilities, but actually has a broader scope.

There are 5 Key Domains of Health Literacy: understanding the healthcare system, understanding verbal instructions,  self-management (or managing the health of a family member), reading/writing, and numeracy (understanding numbers, math, doses, etc).

Ninety million Americans have low health literacy!

For many patients and their families, language and cultural barriers weaken already low health literacy skills. However, while poor understanding of the health care system and difficulty understanding health care instructions may be associated with language and cultural barriers, low health literacy is also found in patients who are proficient in English and who share the common U.S. culture. This latter group may be especially at risk of having their low health literacy go unrecognized.

This challenge is closely associated with language and cultural barriers, but is also found in patients who are proficient in English and who share the common or mainstream U.S. culture. This latter group may be especially at risk of having their low health literacy go unrecognized by providers.

Low health literacy affects your practice is many ways including:

  • decreased patient safety
  • increased phone calls
  • appointment no-shows
  • patient dissatisfaction and poor compliance

To help overcome the poor health outcomes associated with low health literacy, it is important to build rapport with patients/families. When people feel devalued and frustrated they tend to disengage from the process. To build patient confidence and mastery to support self- management, keep in mind the following:

  • focus on behaviors you want to see
  • use active voice
  • use TEACH BACK!
  • break information into steps – recognize success at every step
  • encourage patients to ask questions – persist

For more information, go to: http://healthcare-smart.org/

Contact us to learn more about CCHAP’s services.