Improving Health Literacy

by Medical Group of Pennsylvania

Be a Voice for Recovery

Oftentimes, patients don’t thoroughly understand a diagnosis or procedure and are too intimidated to ask questions. But when patients receive easy-to-understand information about a health issue, they are better prepared to take action to improve their health and wellness.

A 2003 National Assessment found that just 12% of adults in the United States are health proficient. Since that time, changes in the healthcare and health insurance system have complicated the health field even more.

Here are tips for medical professionals and patients to help clear up confusing health communication.

For Medical Professionals

Use The Teach-Back Method

One of the best ways to make sure patients understand an upcoming procedure, new prescription or recovery plan is to have them explain it back to you. After you’ve given them directions, ask them to tell you in their own words what they need to do and know. This method increases the chance patients will avoid further complications by adhering to their wellness plan. Learn more at the Always Use Teach Back Toolkit.

Write it Down

“Was that one pill twice a day or two pills once a day?” It’s easy to quickly forget what we’re told and many patients don’t take notes or may write instructions down incorrectly. In fact, only 14% of spoken medical instructions from doctors are recalled correctly by patients. To increase patient comprehension, write or type directions for them to follow. Sharing informative pamphlets or brochures with reliable Internet sources for more information can also be very helpful to patients.

Use Pictograms or Videos

Roughly 65% of the population is made up of visual learners. These patients will react better to visual explanations than spoken directives. Roy P C Kessels, PhD found in that 71% of medical instructions given using pictograms were recalled correctly four weeks later. Using images with text increases the recall rate even more. Videos are also proven to increase patient memory when it comes to adhering to their wellness plan.


Ask Questions

If you don’t understand a medical test or procedure, ask your physician to explain how it works, what your recovery time is and what you should expect after the procedure. You should feel comfortable and understand your treatment plan before leaving the appointment.

Have Written Instructions

If your health professional doesn’t automatically provide written or typed directions, ask! Your physician should be happy to write your recovery or wellness plan down with you. If you’d prefer to take your own notes, ask the doctor to review them before he or she leaves the exam room. This is a great way to ensure you are following your plan correctly.

By working together to increase health literacy, doctors and patients can improve health outcomes and make the health industry a bit less confusing for everyone.

Tell us, which tip do you plan to work into your next appointment?

Leave your comments


  • No comments found