What is Health Literacy?

Health Literacy is the ability to obtain, read, understand, and use healthcare information in order to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment. Health Literacy is also cultural: culture affects how people communicate, understand and respond to health information.

A patient has health literacy when they can:

  1. Access health care services

  2. Analyze relative risks and benefits

  3. Calculate dosages

  4. Communicate with healthcare providers

  5. Evaluate information for credibility and quality

  6. Interpret test results

  7. Locate health information

In order to have health literacy they must be:

  1. Visually literate (able to understand graphs or other visual information

  2. Computer literate (able to operate a computer)

  3. Information literate (able to obtain and apply relevant information)

  4. Numerically or computationally literate (able to calculate or reason numerically)

A personal can be literate and still have limited health literacy. Oral language skills are also a critical part of health literacy. Patients need to articulate their health concerns and describe their symptoms accurately. They need to be able to ask the right questions in health care settings, and they need to understand spoken medical advice or treatment directions.

Why does Health Literacy Matter?

  • It can help people stay healthier through better understanding of how to take care of themselves, take their medicine, and access care (preventative care and health promotion)

  • It is very important in the successful management of chronic diseases

  • Low health literacy has been linked to more emergency room visits, higher risk of hospitalizations and even death

  • It can save money

  • It can make healthcare delivery more efficient

Why health literacy is important for patient satisfaction?

  • If your patients better understand their diagnosis, treatment plans, and how to correctly take their medication, they will feel better. Patients who feel better = happy patients.

  • Patients who know more, feel empowered as partners in their own health care. Empowered and engaged patients = satisfied patients

How Health Literacy Can Save You Money

  • When patients understand their health and treatment plan they are:

  • Fewer medication errors and fewer adverse side effects

  • More patients following your recommended treatment plans = fewer repeat visits

  • Fewer triage calls to answer patient questions = less office support staff needed

  • Fewer emergency or urgent care visits (chronic diseases better managed)

  • Improved care outcomes = healthier patients= happy patients

How does building health literacy help your business succeed in today’s competitive healthcare market?

Satisfied, healthy and happy patients are more likely to:

  • Refer their family and friends to your practice

  • Return to see you for other healthcare needs

  • Write good reviews online and on social media

  • More likely to see healthcare as a worthwhile investment of their limited healthcare finances.

What could improved health literacy look like in your practice or wellness business?

  • Easy-to-read, accurate, and accessible patient information hand-outs and teaching tools for you to use during patient visits (faster patient visits)

  • An educational practice website which patients use as learning resource. The website could be a library of educational resources where patients can review treatment recommendations at home (fewer triage calls with patient questions)

  • Dynamic, interesting, and educational patient newsletters or blog posts to keep your patients connected, healthy and informed (can also be used for marketing and social purposes)

Articles, blog posts, websites, social media feeds… it is overwhelming to keep up with all of the ways in which your patients are learning about health and wellness today. But, investing your limited time and business resources into improving communication with your patients is essential for your healthcare business’s success.

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