Many studies have shown that the skills required to effectively understand and use health care-related forms of communication are far beyond the abilities of the average person–in fact, only 12 percent of English-speaking individuals have proficient health literacy skills (Institute of Medicine, 2014). Health literacy encompasses the educational, social and cultural factors that influence an individual’s expectations and preferences surrounding their health care, but also the ways in which these factors interact with the demands of the health care system.
Several factors have caused the issue of health literacy to bubble to the surface in recent years–the aging and evolving racial and ethnic composition of the US population, the passage of the Affordable Care Act which has launched some Americans into the health care system for the first time, and the well-documented effects of low health literacy levels on patient safety. This influx of patients with possible low health literacy levels requires a call to action for addressing this issue both on a practice and policy-based level.
This Expert Panel, taking place the week of 29 September through 3 October, aims to highlight health literacy programs in a range of settings and discuss implementation strategies. To address these important issues, we are pleased to welcome our panelists for this discussion:
• Tom Bauer, MBA, RT®, HFA, Corporate Director Health Literacy and Patient Engagement at Novant Health
• Terry C. Davis, PhD., Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at LSU
• Lyla Hernandez, MPH, Senior Program Officer at Institute of Medicine
• Ruth Parker, MD, Professor of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Public Health at Emory University School of Medicine
• Terri Ann Parnell, DNP, RN Principal & Founder at Health Literacy Partners, LLC
• Rima E. Rudd, MSPH, ScD, Senior Lecturer at Harvard School of Public Health
Our panelists will offer insight into the following questions:
1. Health literacy efforts can focus on a range of factors, from written and spoken communication, to patient empowerment and social determinants—which elements do you focus on in your work, and what strategies have you tried?
2. What barriers-to-entry exist for patients with low health literacy that may prevent them from seeking and continuing care? How can we identify and measure these in our interactions, practices, and delivery systems?
3. What factors are critical to the success of health literacy programs? What are some of the challenges your team encountered with implementation?
4. Improving health literacy is a collaborative effort that, according to the Joint Commission, requires the input of “providers, health care policymakers, purchasers and payers, regulatory bodies, and health care consumers”, but the resources to fund and man these operations are not always available. How can individual providers or health care professionals implement changes to improve health literacy in their one-on-one patient interactions?
5. What are some of the longer-term impacts of health literacy initiatives in your work—have you seen changes in patient satisfaction, adherence to treatment plans, increased quality/safety scores, lower costs, etc.?
This panel is part of our US Communities Initiative, which is supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and aims to foster discussions between health care professionals on evidence-based practices, and translating these practices across disparate settings, to improve health care delivery in underserved populations in the US.
In an effort to understand the impact of our Expert Panels, we’ve created a short (4 question) survey. Your responses are greatly appreciated—please take the survey survey before the discussion begins: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WJY27P3
We look forward to a rich discussion next week—please join the conversation and share your questions or comments for our panelists!