October is Health Literacy Month, an observance that was founded in 1999 by Helen Osbourne. Health literacy is a crucial determinant of health and outcome. Healthy People 2030 defines health literacy as “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.” A 2018 study estimated that 77 million U.S. adults have difficulty managing their health, using the healthcare system, and following preventive guidelines.
Oftentimes, people are hesitant to admit that they don’t understand information and instructions from providers. Simple misunderstandings between patient and provider can result in medication errors, avoidable ED visits and readmissions, lower rates of treatment compliance, and in some cases, increased mortality rates.
Consider taking action to help improve patient health literacy and communication with patients. The HHS Office of Minority Health has a reading list with information and resources to help promote health literacy and health equity.