Patient literacy is the representation of mental and behavioral skills that establish the ability and motivation of a person to obtain, comprehend, and utilize health data in ways that foster healthy living (Chang, Chen, Ling Wu, and Liao, & 2016). Patient competency, on the other hand, is the ability of an individual to make decisions regarding health matters. Limited health literacy has become a significant concern. According to studies conducted by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), low health literacy is a problem that is affecting a substantial number of U.S. adults, people with lower financial stability, and racial and ethnic communities (Lie, Carter-Pokras, Braun, and Coleman, 2012). Due to the poor knowledge regarding health matters, individuals with low health literacy end up engaging in activities contrary to the treatment plans offered by the physicians. Some of the practices that they practice include insufficient self-management skills, limited adherence to medication-regimens, immediate emergency care utilization, and frequent hospitalizations (Altin & Stock, 2016).
The IOM proposes all healthcare institutions to implement elements of patient-centered care to mitigate issues of low health literacy among patients. Some of the tools that can be utilized by physicians to ensure the dissemination of necessary information to the patients include the use of clear health communication. Verbal communications must be precise because patients with low health literacy rely on verbal communication to understand the physician (Sudore & Schillinger, 2009). Doctors should avoid jargon and use plain language when addressing patients that fall into this category. Besides, patient-centered communication should be adopted to tailor correspondence to the individual. The physician should provide the patient with the first chance to speak to identify patient weaknesses and beliefs (Sudore & Schillinger, 2009). Another significant tool that might be used for precise dissemination of information is reinforcement modalities. Graphical materials such as charts and use of audio and visual content would significantly assist the patient (Sudore & Schillinger, 2009).
Altin, S., & Stock. (2016).The impact of health literacy, patient-centered communication and shared decision-making on patients satisfaction with care received in German primary care practices. BMC Health Serv Res, 16(1), 450. Doi 10.1186/s12913-016-1693-y.Chang, L., Chen, Y., Wu, F., & Liao, L. (2016). Exploring health literacy competencies towards patient education programme for Chinese-speaking healthcare professionals: A Delphi study. BMJ Open. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011772.
Lie, D., Carter-Pokras, O., Braun, B., & Coleman, C. (2012). What do health literacy and cultural competence have in common? Calling for a collaborative pedagogy. J Health Commun, 17(0 3), 13-22. Doi: 10.1080/10810730.2012.712625.Sudore, R., & Schillinger, D. (2009). Interventions to improve care for patients with limited health literacy. J Clin Outcomes Manag, 16(1), 20-29.
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