Help your patients understand – and then act.

Doctor-smiling-to-a-patientWhat is health literacy?

“Health literacy” refers to how well a person digests basic health information and uses it to make good decisions. A patient with high health literacy can successfully obtain, communicate, process and understand information about their health and take better care of themselves.
Why do I need to pay attention to it?
Studies show that nearly half of patients have limited health literacy.  Providers can’t assume that patients are health literate.
How can I support my patients?
  • Use the teach-back method to check for understanding.
  • Avoid jargon.  Use common words whenever possible.
  • Encourage patients to take notes and ask questions.  Leave space for two-way dialogue.
  • Provide written materials that use plain language (more on this below).
  • Include health literacy in staff training.
How do I use plain language?
  • Write in short sentences that contain only one idea.  Try to limit each sentence to no more than 12 words.
  • Aim for a fifth- or sixth-grade reading level. Programs like MS Word and MS Outlook can help you with this.
  • Use simple language rather than jargon.  This thesaurus and these test exercises and answers will help.
  • Organize information into lists, using bullets or numbers.
  • Leave lots of white space around text.
  • Use graphics to aid understanding.
Learn how to boost your patients’ health literacy!
Contact Claire Tranchese, OPCA
503-228-8852, x243
And check these resources…