What is health literacy? Health literacy is about healthcare professionals being able to communicate health information to the general public using common language that is easy to understand. It is also a patient's ability to understand the healthcare system and successfully navigate it.
Why is it important? If you do not understand how to navigate the healthcare system or what your doctor is saying, you might not make the best healthcare decisions. Providers and healthcare professionals need to learn to present health information in plain language appropriate for their audience. Patients need to know and understand their healthcare rights, where to find answers to their questions, how to ask for help and be comfortable requesting clarification when they do not understand.
Health literacy improves health decision-making and confidence in how to access care when you need it.
For example, if a provider is working with a patient who has a language barrier, they might suggest the patient bring a family member who is bilingual or use translator services to make sure the patient understands the information presented. Having health information in the patient’s primary language also can be helpful in communicating effectively in these situations.
In this era of telemedicine, providers need new strategies to ensure that their patients are able to communicate their healthcare needs and then effectively communicate solutions back. Some patients may struggle with technology and connecting to the visit itself. Others may have a lag in their connection, causing the provider and patient to interrupt each other when speaking. Not being physically present makes it difficult to assess non-verbal cues and get a sense of how well the listener is understanding the conversation.
Tools and Resources for Patients (from Nemours)
Tools and Resources for Health Professionals:
Health literacy resources for health professionals include strategies for sharing health information in ways that everyone can understand and use.
MyHealthfinder Tool connects people with easy-to-understand information based on health literacy best practices.
If you or someone you know would be interested in participating in a health literacy course, we would like to hear from you.