Health Literacy Month
Author: Kim Russo, PharmD BCPS, Chief Clinical Officer, VUCA Health
Over the last several years, a number of organizations have recognized the serious issue with health literacy and patient communication, correctly identifying the complexity of health information and the difficultly with navigating the healthcare system as the root cause of the problem.
A study by the National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that, of the more than 19,000 adults surveyed, just 12% demonstrated proficient health literacy. The IoM reports that 90 million adults have trouble understanding and acting on health information, putting them at an increased risk of hospitalizations, emergency room visits and even death.
Health Literacy Month, created in 1999, is recognized annually as a worldwide, awareness-raising event, shedding light on literacy programs that help improve patient health understanding. The dedicated month of focused awareness was established to allow organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information.
The theme for Health Literacy Month 2014 is “Be a Health Literacy Hero.”
“It’s about taking action and finding ways to improve health communication. Health Literacy Heroes are individuals, teams, or organizations who not only identify health literacy problems but also act to solve them,” according to the organization.
Improving health literacy is as much a patient engagement issue as it is a safety issue. Improving health literacy through individual and organizational actions will go a long way toward improving a patient’s ability to become actively engaged in their healthcare. To that end, several solutions have been created to address the need for vigorous attention to raising awareness and finding solutions. Listed below are several solutions being employed by hospitals and organizations nationwide.
Health Literacy Toolkit
The Health Literacy and Patient Safety: Help Patients Understand educational kit is the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation’s primary tool for informing physicians, health care professionals and patient advocates about health literacy. The kit includes an instructional DVD and in-depth manual that contains informational and instructional videos with case studies featuring techniques and specific steps for physicians and their staff on helping patients with limited health literacy.
Health Literacy Institute
The Health Literacy Institute is an opportunity to learn plain language skills to plan, write, and design effective, accessible information for print and web. The institute, sponsored by the University of New England in Maine, focuses on the spectrum of plain language tools and skills and a curriculum grounded in evidence and best practice from multiple disciplines to combat poor health literacy.
Interactive Patient Engagement Solutions
Solutions that engage patients in their own healthcare decisions are increasing with the rapid growth of technology and mobile devices’ ability to provide on-demand answers to consumer’s medical questions. Solutions such as VUCA Health’s MedsOnCue technology utilizes QR codes printed on prescription labels, SMS text messaging and email to deliver on-demand prescription-specific videos designed to engage and educate patients.