October is Health Literacy Month, when we take time to recognize the importance of creating equitable access to health care information for individuals, and the role health care organizations play making health literacy a priority.
The CDC has two definitions of the term, based on the Healthy People 2030 initiative:
- Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
- Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others
In recognition of the observance, we asked our Health Equity expert, Laura Benzel, to share four actionable tips for improving health literacy within health care organizations. Here are her suggestions:
- Create a Health Literacy Improvement Plan to help your organization assess how it is performing in key areas that influence patient understanding, navigation, and self-management. After identifying priority areas for improvement, the Health Literacy Plan is created to implement the tools needed to improve. Resource: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit (page 10)
- Commit to using Teach-Back and Show-Me Methods, low-cost, evidence-based techniques that are effective in improving provider – patient communication. “Teach-Back” ensures that providers have explained medical information clearly so patients and their families understand what has been communicated. “Show-Me” allows providers to confirm that patients are able to following specific instructions such as how to use an inhaler or how to take a medication. Resource: Teach-Back and Show-Me: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Use the Teach-Back Method: Tool # 5
- Use Plain Language and Avoid Jargon: Plain language makes it easier for everyone to understand and use health information. Keep the reader in mind when creating and organization health information, and avoid public health jargon or medical terms. Resource: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Plain Language Materials & Resources
- Provide high quality and appropriate language services for individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Consider developing a language access plan to ensure that your organization’s staff members know what to do when an individual whose primary language is not English needs assistance. The language access plan identifies ways that providers can assess their programs and develop a plan to ensure effective communication for high-quality care. Resource: CMS Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan
Learn more on our website.