5 Ways to Improve Health Literacy

5 Ways to Improve Health Literacy

To most of us, improving the overall quality of health care and reducing costs without cutting programs or services seems impossible. Heated political debates and the news media have most of us convinced that there’s just no easy way to improve our existing health care system without sacrificing something, but this is a case of treating the symptoms instead of curing the source. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), only 12 percent of American adults possess a proficient level of health literacy. Stop and think about that for a moment. This means that almost 90 percent of adults in the United States are illiterate when it comes to their health. Studies continually link low rates of health literacy to higher rates of hospitalization and lower usage of preventive care services. The same preventive care services that could effectively prevent patients from hospitalization – hospitalizations that drive up the overall cost of health care. It’s clear that improving health literacy is an extremely important part of improving America’s health care system. So how can public health professionals improve health literacy? Five ways to improve health literacy are to use plain language, visuals, multilingual translations, the teach back method, and a call to action in your health education materials. 1. Use Plain Language   Just because someone has poor health literacy doesn’t mean they’re unintelligent. It just means that they don’t understand complex medical terminology. Instead of just using jargon, make sure to define any medical terms in a way that’s easy for people to understand. Clearly present the information they need to know and organize lengthy pieces...
Who is Responsible for Good Patient Care?

Who is Responsible for Good Patient Care?

In order to determine who is responsible for good patient care, it is important to have a clear understanding of what exactly patient care is. Patient-centered care, also known as patient care, focuses on the patient’s interaction with their provider. The goal is to involve the patient in every aspect of the decision-making process regarding their current health plan. Patient engagement and care is also a collaborative effort. It requires active participation and effort from both parties, rather than any one side over the other. There are ways both sides can enhance the entire patient experience. Providers: Be assessable. If it is impossible for a provider to be available, ensure the patient knows how to contact someone should a crisis arise. Minimize wait times as much as possible. For the most part, patients understand when a situation occurs that pushes their appointment time back. However, by keeping the lines of communication open as to when they should expect to be seen, the patient is even more likely to display understanding. Provide information. Understand that appointments may be overwhelming at times and not all received information will be retained. Confirm with the patient they have the necessary documents or access to more specific information should they need it. Patients: Track entire health history. This alleviates any issues of provider or insurance changes, and provides a great resource should any health related questions arise. Be prepared. This means preparation for upcoming visits as well as unforeseen situations that may come up. Establish a proxy or power of attorney that is able to make decisions if needed. Ask questions. It is imperative...
Infant/Child Immunizations Schedule: What You Need to Know

Infant/Child Immunizations Schedule: What You Need to Know

Every year The CDC, Centers for Disease Control, releases their national recommendations for child immunization schedules. This guideline outlines the various vaccines as well as recommends timeframes for children from birth until 18 years. Unfortunately, it is not always feasible for families to follow this schedule for a variety of reasons. One of the most obvious reasons for missed immunizations is that parents and/or caregivers simply missed or forgot about the appointment. Many times, there are conflicts that get in the way of rescheduling these appointments. This easily pushes back appointments weeks, or even months. Insurance has also played a huge part in well-child visits, and has not always been readily available for everyone. A change in employment or the sheer cost alone may have caused lapses in coverage and then forced caregivers to schedule out appointments, which in turn causes a delay in the immunization schedule. How relevant is a recommended schedule then? The CDC experts began publishing a catch-up immunization schedule for children ages 4 months to 18 years, or for those that fell more than one month behind of schedule. Rather than offering suggestions based on age, this schedule provides intervals. For example, birth administration is normal for the Hepatitis B vaccine, the second dose between 1 and 2 months of age, and then the third dose is between 6 and 18 months. The catch-up schedule alters this by suggesting 4 weeks between dose one and two, and then a minimum of 16 weeks after the first does but no more than 24 weeks. As with anything in life, once there is a deviation from the...
Clear Patient Discharge Instructions Increase Patient Satisfaction

Clear Patient Discharge Instructions Increase Patient Satisfaction

Beginning in October of 2014, Medicare has been fining hospitals with high readmission rates and low HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) scores. In order to avoid these fines, facilities must find ways to reduce readmission rates and provide better patient experiences. The main complaints that facilities get from their patients are the following:     Confusion regarding diagnosis Confusion regarding medication management Unclear discharge instructions No scheduled follow up appointments It is difficult for all parties involved when there is a patient diagnosis. Many times the patient is overwhelmed at being in a hospital, and distractions are everywhere. It is not until they are back home when they are able to fully digest all of the information they just received. It is very important to send patients home with patient discharge instructions that are specific to them. The internet is full of information, and a patient that is uncertain about their diagnosis will seek clarification and runs the risk of an inaccurate self-diagnosis. A Care Transition Tracker includes a checklist that allows the patient to be proactive and accountable with his or her healthcare. The checklist reinforces confirmation of a patient’s understanding as to their care, while also keeping any other necessary information, including medication management, in one easy location. Medications cause a great deal of confusion for many patients. Remembering what they are for, when to take them, potential side effects etc. are all large contributors to an increase in readmission rates. Facilities can easily reduce this confusion by providing education to patients and their families or caregivers, and providing them with a medication...
How To Improve Health Literacy With Visuals

How To Improve Health Literacy With Visuals

A low level of health literacy affects 90 million people in the United States.  Patients struggle to understand and act on health information that can include following instructions after a doctor’s visit, treating an illness or properly taking medication all of which puts them at a higher risk for health problems. Patients are often too preoccupied with their symptoms to fully concentrate and process medical information.  All patients, at all literacy levels, need help remembering and understanding what they hear.  Doctors want to communicate clearly, but generally use terminology that is too technical and precise for the patient.  Studies show that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and that 40% of people respond better to visual information better than plain text. To help improve communication and get a better understanding of health education materials, doctors should include visuals on all forms of health communication.    Visuals closely linked to written text can increase the patient’s attention and recall of the health education information.  They also improve comprehension, especially when presenting information about spatial relationship. This example displays a great visual representation of how to summarize information as it relates to pills and time of day.  Extensive writing would be necessary to cover the same information shown.  The image visibly communicates health instructions to patients by providing clear medical information that patients and quickly reference.           The visuals help readers take focus on the most important details and guide them directly to the primary point.  Patients who struggle to understand health information are at a greater risk for health problems, which has a negative...

Improving Medication Management

Medications are involved in 80 percent of all treatments and can potentially affect every aspect of a patient’s life. Each year, over one million Americans experience a health problem because they do not take their medicine as their doctor prescribed. To help improve this problem, hospitals are providing additional patient education through medication management. Medication management is the effective use of medications by optimizing safe, educational and appropriate use. Studies show it can reduce 60 percent of hospital readmissions that relate to misuse, as well as help to improve patient satisfaction. The transition from hospital to home may cause confusion for a patient as there are many things to consider. For example, will there now be any type of a medication change? Is there a clear understanding of which medications to take, how often, and for how long? The most common reasons patients fail to take their medication properly is forgetfulness, unwanted side effects, the medications themselves are too expensive, or they experience difficulties with getting a prescription filled. The consequences to any of these can be potentially harmful, or even fatal. A medication management plan is not only necessary to have in place, but also needs to involve clear communication with all parties involved, including the patient, the doctor and the pharmacist. By working together, they will help oversee prescriptions and answer any questions that may arise. Tips to help patients manage their medications:   1) Be informed about all medications Make sure the pharmacy label says why the patient needs this medication, what the medication is for and the proper way to administer it. Keep an up-to-date...
Understanding Health Literacy

Understanding Health Literacy

Health literacy is complicated.  Many people struggle with understanding medications, self-care instructions, and follow up plans.  Health literacy is the ability to understand medical jargon and make the best decisions for your health.  Health literacy means more than reading words but also numbers, symbols, charts, as well as being able to weigh risks and benefits in order to make the best health care decisions. Navigating within the medical arena is challenging for everyone, even those with a high level of literacy.  Primary care practices should ensure that systems are in place to promote better understanding for all patients.  One-third of the adult population has limited health literacy, which is associated with medication errors, increased health care costs and inadequate knowledge of care for chronic health conditions. Health literacy can affect anyone, no matter his or her level of education.  Individuals with low health literacy may have difficulty with the following tasks: Filling out medical forms Communicating with health care providers Reading labels on medications Managing and maintaining follow-up plans   Health care providers rely heavily on print materials to communicate with patients. Many health-related documents are written at a college level, containing a large amount of text in small print with complex terminology.  Those with limited literacy skills have difficulty understanding written information, including medication dosage instructions and warning labels and basic health information about diseases, nutrition, prevention, and health services. The inability to read and comprehend can prevent clinicians from obtaining an accurate medical history. It can also affect your patients’ ability to understand medical advice, take medication correctly, engage in self-care behaviors, and make informed decisions about their...
Have Fun and Get Healthy At the Same Time

Have Fun and Get Healthy At the Same Time

Businesses and employers are paying more attention to their employee’s health than ever before.  In many instances, how healthy or unhealthy their employees are, has a direct effect on their profitability. Not only are their insurance premiums directly affected, but employee productivity often is as well. Workplace wellness incentives do not have to come across as intimidating, but rather can be quite fun! You can take many different approaches, whether you would like to split the employees into teams, or motivate everyone based on their own success. We thought we would share a couple that we have seem proven successful in various companies. Biggest Loser Challenge: This one began and gained enormous popularity based on the reality show, and has been motivating people ever since towards a healthier lifestyle. It can be as simple or as complex as you would like. The most common set up is to split up into teams, and have all team members weigh in on a weekly basis. The concept is quite simple, the team that loses the most weight collaboratively, wins! The greatest success occurs in groups, so give your employees the tools to succeed. We offer a variety of guides and trackers that have health information in one convenient location. This way, they cannot only track their activities, but they can learn about overall health issues as well! A Cook off: One of the biggest complaints you hear about when it comes to healthy living is not knowing exactly what is or is not good for you. Not only do you have to do your research, but you have to find time...

Promote Patient Compliance with the Pregnancy Tracker

Preventative care is essential during pregnancy. It is during these appointments that both the mother and baby’s health are monitored, and any potential problems can be discovered early. With that being said, it is still often difficult to stress the importance of continuous care all throughout the pregnancy to patients and their families. Providing a printed pregnancy tracker helps your patients see the long-term plan and goals for their pregnancies, as well as helps to promote compliance. Trackers help to monitor progression and tests, such as vitals, growth, etc. They allow patients to see the significance of each visit by clearly stating what testing they can expect at specific appointments, as well as any necessary procedures. This visual reminder reinforces the importance of preventative care visits and therefore reduces the amount of skipped or missed appointments. Using only online resources for your patients typically proves to be more trouble than it is worth. Reliability is and always will be a major concern when depending on any type of content that is not your own. You must spend an elaborate amount of time determining credibility and fact checking. It is also very easy for patients to get off topic and start looking into other areas not specifically pertaining to them. With the pregnancy tracker, your patients are able to have their pregnancy information in one clear and concise location. They can easily reference their vitals as well as test explanations. Many trackers on the market today can be overwhelming and lose a patient’s interest. Let’s face it, with all of the information that is being thrown around online, on the...

Communication is Key to Quality Healthcare

Healthcare pamphlets are not a thing of the past. Regardless of advancements such as the internet, email, and pdf downloads, there is still a place for print. In fact, it often times is a crucial tool for communicating with your patients. For many, a visit to the doctor’s office can be an overwhelming time. Despite the best intentions, not all questions may be answered, and other important details may be misunderstood. This is especially true if there is a condition or diagnosis. Rather than expecting patients to recollect every detail they heard during their office visit, a brochure will provide them with information they can read at a time they are most likely able to retain it. Providing your patients with these brochures also guarantees they are reading the correct information pertaining to them specifically. While the internet is a great asset, regarding medical care, it can be misleading. The instances of people self- or over-diagnosing are incredibly high, and often unnecessary. By providing this information to your patients first hand, you can not only provide pertinent information, but you can offer them piece of mind knowing all of the information you are sharing is credible, and filled with information specific to them. Healthcare brochures also provide an excellent means for communication with non-English speaking patients. Unfortunately, many things can get lost in translation over the internet; therefore, these brochures provide peace of mind to not only you the provider, but to your patients as well. It is always beneficial to have a back-up plan if you are unable to employ a full-time translator. You can save valuable time...
Creating Awareness with a Health Fair

Creating Awareness with a Health Fair

The first step towards any successful health fair is to identify your objective. Do you want to create community awareness surrounding a particular healthcare issue? Would you like to offer health screenings or early detection testing regarding a particular healthcare issue?  Various clinics and other healthcare settings find fairs are not only a great time to educate, but to motivate people towards a healthier lifestyle as well. Once you have established your main focus the real planning begins. Establishing your budget early on works as a great guideline, but do not feel as though you have to rely solely on your contributions. Partner with the businesses and community programs in your area.  Often times, they have available resources for events such as this. Request that they contribute to food, decorations, or even door prizes. Door prizes or promotional items are not only a great way to attract visitors, but a huge marketing opportunity for these businesses as well. They often have items such as water bottles, pens, tote bags, pamphlets, etc readily available for events such as these. It is great exposure for them without having to do much work, so do not hesitate to ask! Determining your flow is another area you are going to want to spend some time on. What exactly would you like people to take away from your event, and what is the best way to get there? Do you want guest speakers giving a symposium, or would you rather have guests visiting booths at their leisure?  These are all important things to consider. You want to have a traffic flow in place in...