health literacy challenges and solutions
Skip this Video
Download Presentation
Health Literacy: Challenges and Solutions

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 48

Health Literacy: Challenges and Solutions - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

Health Literacy: Challenges and Solutions. Presented by: Barbara Meyer Lucas, M.D., MHSA The Michigan State Medical Society Foundation American Medical Association Foundation & American Medical Association. 10/03. Overview of Presentation :. Definition of Health Literacy

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Health Literacy: Challenges and Solutions' - alder

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
health literacy challenges and solutions

Health Literacy: Challenges and Solutions

Presented by:

Barbara Meyer Lucas, M.D., MHSA

The Michigan State Medical Society Foundation

American Medical Association Foundation & American Medical Association


overview of presentation
Overview of Presentation:
  • Definition of Health Literacy
  • Implications of Poor Health Literacy
  • Why Is Health Literacy a Challenge?
  • What Solutions Can We Offer?
definition what is health literacy
Definition: What is Health Literacy?

Healthy People 2010:

“The degree to which individuals have the capacity, to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

Simplified: Health Literacy is the ability to:


----Understand, and

----Act On

health care information.

1993 national adult literacy survey n 26 000 scored on 5 levels



Level 4

Level 5 - 3%

Level 3

Level 1

21% -


Level 2

27% -

Marginal Literacy

1993 National Adult Literacy Surveyn=26,000, scored on 5 levels
implications of poor health literacy
Implications of Poor Health Literacy:

48% of the U.S. Population Are at Risk For:

  • Inadequate health knowledge and poorer health outcomes
  • Inappropriate hospitalizations and greater health costs
  • Increased medical errors
low literate diabetic patients less likely to know correct management
Low literate diabetic patients less likelyto know correct management….

Know symptoms

of low blood sugar


Know correct action

for hypoglycemic



Williams, et al. Arch Int Med 1998

poor health outcomes for diabetic patients
Poor health outcomes for diabetic patients……
  • Diabetic patients with low health literacy have poorer glycemic control than patients with adequate literacy.

(Schillinger D, et al. JAMA. 2002.)

  • Diabetic children (ages 5-17) had poorer glycemic control if their parents had lower literacy skills.

(Ross LA, et al. Diabetic Med. 2001.)

patients with low literacy more likely to be hospitalized
Patients with low literacy more likely to be hospitalized


Baker, Parker, Williams, et al. JGIM 1999

linkage to patient safety sentinel events
Linkage to Patient Safety: Sentinel Events
  • Communication Issues are the Leading Root Cause of Sentinel Events, all Categories, 1995-2002
  • Communication Issues Implicated as a Root Cause in 56% of Medication Errors
research also shows that
Research also shows that:
  • Literacy is a predictor of health status
  • It is a stronger predictor than age, income, employment status, education level, or racial and ethnic group
contributing factors
Contributing Factors:
  • Cultural Issues
  • Increasingly complex health system
    • Growing self-care requirements
    • More medications, tests, procedures
  • Aging Population
  • Increased reliance on printed handouts for patient instruction
a more complex health care system
4 - 6 weeks bed rest

in hospital


3 weeks in hospital

2 hours a day of diabetic education classes

2-4 days in hospital

(M&R Guidelines)

10,000 +


0-3 hours diabetic

education classes

written materials



A More Complex Health Care System:

35 Years Ago


Treatment of Acute Myocardial Infarction

Available Prescription Drugs

Treatment of new onset diabetes

an aging population inadequate health literacy increases with age
An Aging Population:Inadequate health literacy increases with age:


Gazmararian, et al. JAMA 1999

increased reliance on written handouts
Increased Reliance on Written Handouts :
  • As a sincere attempt to improve patient education
  • To increase office efficiency by using ancillary staff
  • To comply with mandates from accrediting agencies

GNINAELC – Ot erussa hgih ecnamrofrep, yllacidoirep naelc eht epat sdaeh dna natspac revenehw uoy eciton na noitalumucca fo tsud dna nworb-red edixo selcitrap. Esu a nottoc baws denetsiom htiw lyporposi lohocla. Eb erus on lohocla sehcuot eht rebbur strap, sa ti sdnet ot yrd dna yllautneve kcarc eht rebbur. Esu a pmad tholc ro egnops ot naelc eht tenibac. A dlim paos, ekil gnihsawhsid tnegreted, lliw pleh evomer esaerg ro lio.

solutions what can we do to help
Solutions: What can we do to help?
  • Understand the problem
  • Identify the barriers faced by both patients and clinicians
  • Identify and implement strategies to enhance health literacy
  • Advocate for system change
video the patient s voice
Video: The patient’s voice...
  • This video was made by the AMA in 2003
  • You will see real patients and real physicians talking about literacy issues
two specific goals to enhance health literacy
Two specific goals to enhance health literacy…
  • Create a shame-free environmentwith improved patient assessment
  • Improve interpersonal communication with patients
goal 1 creating a shame free environment
Goal #1: Creating a “Shame-Free” Environment

4 Key Strategies for Healthcare Organizations:

1. Adopt an attitude of Helpfulness

2. Convey a safe, non-judgmental


3. Be alert for low literacy “red flags”

4. Engage your entire staff

1 adopt an attitude of helpfulness
1. Adopt an Attitude of Helpfulness
  • Attitude of helpfulness, caring and respect by all staff
  • Easy-to-follow instructions for appointments, check-in, referrals and tests
  • Assistance provided confidentially
  • All patients treated as if they are your parents
2 create a safe non judgmental environment
2. Create a Safe, Non-judgmental Environment
  • Provide privacy for all discussions
  • Sit down at patient’s level to talk!
  • Ask patients how they want information communicated to them
  • Take the patient’s concern seriously
  • Ask and listen before you advise
  • Give the patient time to respond
  • Be positive, hopeful, empowering
be alert to clues of low health literacy
Be alert to clues of low Health Literacy
  • Be alert for “red flags”
  • Use the “social history” to assess literacy
  • Use “medication reviews” to identify and address problems
red flags patients may seek to protect themselves by
Red Flags:Patients may seek to protect themselves by….
  • Not completing registration forms
  • Walking out of the waiting room
  • Making excuses
  • Pretending they can read
  • Becoming angry, demanding
  • Clowning around, using humor
  • Being quiet, passive
  • “Detouring”, letting doctor miss the concern
red flags patient communication
Red Flags:Patient Communication
  • Unable to name medications, or explain purpose or timing of administration
  • Difficulty explaining medical concerns
  • Has no questions
red flags lack of follow through
Red Flags:Lack of follow-through
  • Frequently missed appointments
  • Skipped tests and referrals
  • Non-compliant with meds
  • Seeking help only when illness is advanced
use the social history to ask
Use the “social history” to ask:
  • Ask about education, reading, learning styles – be non-judgmental.
  • Use this discussion to open a space for the patient to talk about literacy issues.
  • “How comfortable are you with the way you read?”
use a brown bag visit to identify problems
Use a “Brown Bag Visit” to identify problems:

Conducting a Medication Review:

  • Ask patients to bring in all their medications
  • Ask them to name and explain the purpose of each one
  • Discuss exactly how and when they take each one
  • Use this discussion to identify areas of confusion and to answer questions
4 engage the entire staff what is it like being a patient in your setting
4. Engage the entire staff(what is it like being a patient in your setting?)
  • What forms will you be given?
  • Will you be offered confidential assistance?
  • Are check-in personnel friendly?
  • Were you given easy-to-follow instructions?
  • First impressions? Non-verbal communication of staff?
all staff need to be involved in
All staff need to be involved in…..
  • Understanding the problem of health literacy
  • Identifying possible barriers in your setting
  • Developing, implementing, and assessing effective strategies for improvement
  • Conducting on-going follow-up and evaluation
goal 2 improving communications with patients
Goal # 2: Improving Communications with Patients

2 Key Strategies for Individual

Healthcare Providers:

1. Improving Face-to Face

Communication Skills

2. Improving Written Patient

Education Materials

failure to communicate
Failure to communicate

Doctor:“Your foot infection is so severe that we will not be able to treat it locally.”

Patient:“I hope I don’t have to travel far, doctor. I’m afraid of flying.”

strategy 1 enhancing face to face communications with patients
Strategy #1: Enhancing face-to-face communications with patients:

1. Conduct patient-centered visits

2. Explain things clearly in plain language

3. Focus on key messages and repeat

4. Use a “teach back” or “show me” technique to check for understanding

1 conduct patient centered visits
1. Conduct patient-centered visits
  • Sit down, and engage in a dialogue with the patient
  • Encourage patients to have a family member accompany them
  • Welcome questions
  • Understand and address the patient’s concerns.
  • Listen more and speak less
2 explain things clearly using plain language
2. Explain things clearly using plain language.
  • Slow down the pace of your speech
  • Use analogies
    • “Arthritis is like a creaky hinge on a door.”
  • Use plain, non-medical language
    • “Pain killer” instead of “analgesic”
3 focus on key messages and repeat
3. Focus on key messages and repeat.
  • Limit information by focusing on 1-3 key messages per visit
  • Review each point and repeat several times
  • Have other staff reinforce key messages.
patients should leave your office knowing 3 things
Patients Should Leave Your Office Knowing 3 Things:
  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do about it?
  • Why is it important that I follow these instructions?
exercise what s the key message
Exercise : What’s the Key Message?

Type II DM diagnosed at today’s visit:

  • Sugar level in blood is high
  • How the body controls blood glucose
  • Self-management of diabetes medications
  • Start medicine to lower sugar
  • Potential complications of diabetes
  • Testing the blood sugar level
  • Proper diet
4 use teach back or show me techniques
4. Use “teach back” or “show me” techniques.
  • Ask patient to demonstrate understanding
    • “What will you tell your spouse about your condition?”
    • “I want to be sure I explained everything clearly, so can you please explain it back to me so I can be sure I did.”
  • Do not ask,

“Do you understand?”

strategy 2 developing patient friendly written educational materials
Strategy # 2: Developing patient-friendly written educational materials:
  • Focus only on key points
  • Show or draw only simple pictures

---Minimize info about anatomy and physiology

  • Be sensitive to cultural preferences.
  • Emphasize what the patient should do
guidelines for creating patient friendly written materials
Guidelines for creatingpatient-friendly written materials:
  • Simple words (1-2 syllables)
  • Short sentences (4-6 words)
  • Short paragraphs (2-3 sentences)
  • No medical jargon
  • Headings and bullets
  • Lots of white space.
in summary
In Summary:
  • Health Literacy is the ability to read, understand, and act on health care information.
  • 48% of the U.S. population have inadequate or marginal literacy skills
in summary45
In Summary:

Poor Health Literacy places patients at high risk for:

--Poor compliance with care plans

--Poorer health outcomes

--Inappropriate hospitalizations

--Medical errors

in summary46
In Summary:
  • Literacy in the healthcare setting is particularly challenging due to:

---patient discomfort/embarrassment

---complexity of healthcare today

---aging populations/cultural issues

---time constraints that increase our

reliance on handouts

in summary what can we do to help
In Summary: What can we do to help?
  • Strategies for change include:

1. On a System Level:

---Work toward creating shame-free

healthcare environments

2. At the Individual Provider Level:

--- Improve communications

Face to face with patients

Simplified written handouts

in summary what can we do to help48
In Summary: What can we do to help?
  • For Training at Your Sites:


The Michigan State Medical Society

Dept. of Educational Programs

Health Literacy Grant Team

(517) 337-1351