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10 Ways to Improve Patient Health Literacy

10 Ways to Improve Patient Health Literacy

Communication is vital in the patient-doctor relationship. However, effective communication can’t occur unless a patient is health literate. The 2010 Affordable Care Act defines health literacy as "the degree to which an individual has the ability to obtain, communicate, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions."

Unfortunately, the ACA's standard hasn’t been easy to reach. According to the 2010 National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy, prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly nine of every 10 English-speaking Americans struggle with health literacy, a situation the plan called "a problem of enormous proportion."

Doctors, nurses and administrators have a role in improving health literacy among patients but hectic schedules and other priorities can stand in the way. In an October poll by MDLinx, a healthcare information website, 65 percent of 125 medical professionals who responded said they’re familiar with the issue of health literacy. However, only 14 percent said their employers or organizations are taking steps to improve health literacy in observance of National Health Literacy Month, which is October.

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