Understanding the Role of Health Literacy
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. A patient’s low health literacy may result from:
- Low educational skills
- Poor knowledge of health topics
- Cultural barriers to accessing health care
- Limited English Proficiency (LEP)
The level of health literacy impacts a patient’s ability to:
- Navigate the healthcare system, including understanding health insurance coverage, filling out complex forms, and locating providers and services
- Share personal information with providers, including health history and lifestyle (diet/exercise) information
- Engage in self-care and chronic disease management, including tracking/attending medical appointments and understanding medication-taking regiments
- Understand mathematical concepts such as probability and risk in order to make informed decisions about treatment options
Providers need to quickly grasp a patient’s level of health literacy to guide the patient as to how s/he can best manage his/her health. By being able to make more informed decision about one’s health, a patient can better activate one’s role in self-care, leading to enhanced satisfaction and outcomes.
The month of October is recognized as Health Literacy Month. This recognition promotes the importance of understandable health information and brings awareness to breaking down the barriers of understanding.
How Telehealth Supports Health Literacy
Virtual care platforms can help address the limitations in a patient’s level of health literacy by providing patients with easier access to healthcare. With Synzi’s telehealth platform,
- Providers and patients can connect using HIPAA-compliant video for scheduled and on-demand check-in’s. Medically-certified interpreters can be included in the virtual visit to ensure understanding.
- Wound photos and other patient ePHI can be safely shared in an encrypted, HIPAA-compliant environment.
- Condition-specific texts and emails can be scheduled and sent throughout the episode of care to drive adherence to medication, and lifestyle recommendations. Messaging can be translated into the patient’s preferred language to deepen understanding.
All communications should be designed and deployed with the objective of improving health literacy, matching patient preference in culture, language, and tone, and ensuring that providers and patients are aligned in
Better access to providers will help patients become more engaged and knowledgeable about their care. Virtual care platforms can help providers more efficiently (and effectively) enlighten patients and drive deeper levels of health literacy.