October is Health Literacy Month, and each year it shines a light on improving not only the patient’s health knowledge but also on activating healthier behaviors. In this challenging year, as COVID-19 has interrupted healthcare delivery and workflow, ensuring patients understand their health journey is more important than ever.
Health literacy is the key that allows patients to participate in shared decision making with their healthcare providers. When shared decisions on the course of care include the patients’ level of comfort, the patient is more likely to use the information they receive in their day to day self-care. Healthy People 2030 is working to include this concept in its revised definition of health literacy. The definition of health literacy in Healthy People 2010 and 2020 is, “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions.”1 For Healthy People 2030, the focus shifts to the patient’s ability to make a “well-informed” decision as opposed to the “appropriate” one.2
In response to the challenges COVID-19 has presented, healthcare has pivoted to the use of telehealth, resulting in an explosion of virtual visits and the use of technology to connect with patients. This new world of clinical care has highlighted the need for digital health literacy, or the ability of a patient to seek out reputable health information to address a health problem.3 Barriers also exist in patients’ abilities to use technology to successfully navigate to this information.
Over time, we have learned that low health literacy levels are more prevalent among the poor, underinsured, minorities, and older adults. Unfortunately, low levels of health literacy are also associated with poor health outcomes for these groups.4 Patient education needs to be broken down into easily understood, shorter, precise messages to help overcome barriers to health literacy.
The Wellness Network’s patient education solutions are designed to help improve health literacy. Health concepts are simplified, straightforward, and relay one medical concept at a time. All education videos include metadata and questions for teach-back and comprehension to help clinicians gauge patient understanding and activation. Educational resources are written at a 5th-grade reading level and the use of multi-sensory videos is proven to help overcome retention barriers. Our libraries are updated quarterly to provide clinical teams with the educational resources they need to improve health literacy and quality of life for every patient.