Health literacy is more than just the ability to read health information. It encompasses many different areas of a patient’s healthcare experience, from before they even enter the examination room.
That’s a key takeaway from our National Communication Association-sponsored webinar, “Health Literacy: Understanding the Problem and Developing Clear Solutions.” We had a terrific turn out and were lucky enough to have two of our very own HealthEd family members present and share their expertise on health literacy and how to create a patient-centered practice.
Ken Thorlton, SVP & Creative Director, and Rita Williams, MA, CHES, Director of Health Education, focused on assessing five key areas within your healthcare environment:
- Print Communication
- Oral Exchange
- Policies and procedures
One of the key areas that they emphasized was Navigation (which includes things like telephone communication and the entrance and lobby). They provided examples of resources to help assess practice needs, such as:
- Telephone Assessment. Provides you with a sense of the first impression people may have of your healthcare facility.
- The Walking Interview. Helps you gain insight into the physical characteristics of your healthcare facility that you may not otherwise notice.
(Some of these assessment resources can be found on the archive within SurroundHealth.)
Since it’s well known that many people have a hard time locating or navigating through healthcare facilities, Thorlton and William also emphasized the importance of having simple and clear maps and signs throughout the facility, especially in the entrance and lobby. Finally, remember that placement can make a big difference. Guidance from clearly-marked staff to help visitors would also be a plus in creating a patient-centered practice.
Here are some tips Thorlton and Williams gave on Maps & Signs:
- Maps can be posted at various locations
- Include a key (also identifying where you are) and be color-coded with facility as appropriate (i.e colors on the walls or floors)
- Use consistent symbols, graphics, and words for your signs
- Use common words and graphics
A final note was a reminder to develop an action plan that is specific to your institution, taking into account your priorities as well as costs and considerations. It is unlikely that any institution can eliminate ALL health literacy barriers, but you should address what you can based on what is feasible at the time.
Tips on Clear Communication
As far as actually developing these patient assets, Thorlton and Williams described Clear By Design, HealthEd’s 7 basic principles for crafting materials that are clear and easy to use. The first few from that list:
1) Provide content that solves problems. Limit the number of concepts to be learned and focus on behaviors rather than facts.
2) Write for easy reading. Use active voice, common words, and make sure to define new terms.
3) Design for easy reading. Use adequate white space, appropriate type style and size, and provide consistency from page to page.
(Clear by Design principles and resources can be found on the archive within SurroundHealth.)