September 06, 2022
A person's health literacy dictates their ability to garner and understand their own medical information. Unfortunately, low literacy levels in this area can lead to adverse outcomes, i.e., prescription misuse, ailment misunderstandings, and lawsuits. The consequences of health literacy make it crucial that every medical professional implements strategies focused on improving it among their patients.
Research consistently shows that low personal health literacy leads to higher mortality rates. If physicians and other healthcare organizations don't take this issue seriously, their patients suffer. Fortunately, the following methods for improving health literacy are easy to implement and standardize.
Think back to before you started your medical education. Did you know the definitions of dysphagia, lipids, epistaxis or hypercholesterolemia? Let's be honest; some of us still might not know, depending on our specialty. That said, using medical jargon is one of the chief hurdles to improving health literacy.
Consider the following jargon along with more understandable terms for each:
Healthcare consumers need to understand what you're saying. If they don't, all the medical advancements and superior care in the world may be for naught. All of these may not be relevant to your specialty. However, they still show how easy improving health literacy among patients can be.
This is one of the most manageable steps for improving health literacy. You can:
These simple choices help organizations equitably enable individuals to take control of their health. Patient literacy impacts healthcare outcomes, but it's not always because medical concepts are challenging to understand. In many cases, individuals are simply intimidated or uncomfortable in a clinical setting. They find it challenging to trust physicians when they think they're viewed as nothing more than a customer or chart. Nurturing a welcoming environment can combat this issue.
Creating a welcoming environment and cutting back on jargon are significant steps. Unfortunately, they don't guarantee that your patients will understand what you're telling them. Improving health literacy is impossible when individuals do not comprehend and retain the information they receive.
Healthcare Literacy Month may only happen once a year (October in the United States), but you can utilize these steps every day in your practice. In fact, doing so is an essential step for improving health literacy. The following strategies can help healthcare professionals overcome this issue:
Modern medical science has seen some of its most impressive advancements in recent years. This, on top of an increasingly patient-centered approach to care, has done great things for healthcare consumers. Unfortunately, there remains much work to be done to improve health literacy.
However, by continuously striving to help patients become more health literate, doctors can enhance the standard of care they provide to their clients.
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