Health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. Only 12% of adults in the US have proficient health literacy. Over a third of US adults have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label or adhering to a childhood immunization schedule using a standard chart. Limited health literacy affects adults in all racial and ethnic groups and across socio-economic class. To improve health outcomes, patients have to be engaged and feel that they have a voice in making decisions about their care. In order to do that we, as providers of care, have to be sure they understand what we are communicating. Here are a few tips from the Health Literate Care Model:
Approach all patients as if they are at risk of not understanding health information.
Employ a range of strategies for clear communication (pictures, videos, etc).
Confirm patients’ understanding (ask open-ended questions or use the teach-back method).