The AHRQ website is very insightful and brought attention to a matter that I often forget when we are busy at my clinical site. Surprisingly, only 12 percent of adults have the health literacy skills to manage the healthcare system (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2020). They note that we simply cannot know which patients are challenged by health care information. A seasoned provider works in my office and is going through radiation. She was having difficulty navigating her treatments as she was unfamiliar with that specialty and disease process. Even as medical providers, we could find ourselves needing help understanding and navigating care that we are unfamiliar with. We should keep this in mind when caring for our patients.
Creating an environment that allows patients to feel comfortable asking questions and ensuring understanding should be part of our routine care. Strategies I can incorporate in everyday practice to assist with health literacy include using the teach-back method to educate patients. Taking additional time to have the patient repeat education back ensures that they understood the teaching and help identify areas needing additional reinforcement. Doing Brown Bag Medicine Reviews, where the patient takes medications to their appointments, showed that it doubled the percentage of reviews in which drug therapy problems were identified and the percentage of medication regimens revised also increased (Weiss et al., 2016). Another strategy to assist in health literacy is addressing language barriers. Some various tools and resources now allow this to be at ease. In my clinical rotation, there are iPads with an app that gives you access to numerous interpreters without having to call a language line and gives the option for a video to further make the process easier. This also translates into the material that is given to the patients. Websites like the CDC offer handouts in different languages that can facilitate education and help patients achieve health literacy.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2020). About Health Literacy. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.ahrq.gov/health-literacy/about/index.html
Weiss, B. D., Brega, A. G., LeBlanc, W. G., Mabachi, N. M., Barnard, J., Albright, K., Cifuentes, M., Brach, C., & West, D. R. (2016). Improving the Effectiveness of Medication Review: Guidance from the Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine : JABFM, 29(1), 18–23. https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2016.01.150163