This October, all of us here at Healtheo360 are celebrating Health Literacy Month, an annual event that promotes the importance of understanding health-related information. The term “health literacy” refers to a person’s ability to read and understand general health information.
Although patients of lower socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by low health literacy, studies show that nearly half of the total U.S. population has inadequate literacy. Patients with low health literacy may have difficulty following instructions given by their doctor or printed on their prescriptions.
To accommodate those affected by low health literacy, the healthcare supply chain must make changes in how they communicate with patients. Here are three ways to improve health literacy and strengthen communication between patients and physicians:
Health Literacy Month- Improve Health Literacy Tip #1: Use Analogies
In a recent infographic, we discussed the benefits of Universal Patient Language (UPL), a public resource that can help doctors communicate complex topics with their patients in a clear, straightforward way. UPL uses analogies and images to help patients understand medical jargon commonly used by physicians. UPL is not meant to replace written materials, so be sure to give your patient(s) written instructions as well.
Health Literacy Month- Improve Health Literacy Tip #2: Use Simple Language
Medical terminology can be difficult for a patient to understand. It is important for doctors to choose their words carefully when speaking with a patient, in an effort to minimize the risk of misunderstanding. Try saying, “swallow” instead of “take” when talking about medication. Consider saying “harmful” instead of “adverse” when discussing the effects of treatment and/or medication. Although it may not seem like much of a difference, these small steps can help improve patient health literacy.
Health Literacy Month- Improve Health Literacy Tip #3: Ask Questions
When explaining a treatment process or how to properly take medication, follow up by asking your patient questions. Try asking open-ended questions to elicit a response from your patient. This will help you understand how much of the written material the patient really understands, and can help you decide how to better communicate with that patient.