October’s annual Health Literacy Month is wrapping up, and BioIQ wants to raise awareness about gaps in health literacy. We also want to make it easier for people to obtain health information and make better decisions concerning their health.
There are two types of health literacy: personal and organizational. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) defines these as:
- Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals can obtain, understand, and use information to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
- Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to obtain, understand, and use information to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.
These definitions allow us to determine consumers’ ability to use health information rather than just understand it and focus on the ability to make well-informed decisions rather than just appropriate ones. Incorporating a public health perspective into this decision making and acknowledging that organizations have a responsibility to address health literacy, is important in raising health literacy levels.
Everyone, at some point in their lives, will need to find and understand health information and make decisions about health services. It’s also important to know that even people who are well-read can face issues with health literacy.
According to a study from United Health Group, differences in education, spoken languages, health care behaviors, and characteristics of the health system all impact health literacy. In populations with high levels of health literacy, 15-27% are estimated to have limited health literacy. In populations with low health literacy, 36-59% of the population are estimated to have limited health literacy.
Health literacy can become a problem when people or organizations provide information to others that is too difficult to understand, or when they’re expected to navigate unfamiliar health services and systems. Limited health literacy is often tied to limited general literacy. The best way to close this gap is to better communicate between health care professionals and consumers. This includes:
- Establishing a commitment from consumer-facing professionals to communicate in ways that are more accessible and understandable to people of all health literacy levels, as well as offering training to these same professionals
- Testing communications before they are finalized, and only releasing materials that are demonstrated to be accurate, clear, and actionable.
- Making communications available in the languages spoken by the population served.
- Using video and other visuals to support consumer understanding.
- Giving consumers multiple opportunities to ask for help.
Investing in these practices will improve health literacy among adults of all ages, but especially to seniors. In populations with high levels of health literacy, we see higher vaccination rates, less hospital visits, and more savings.
At BioIQ, we are closing health literacy gaps and contributing to these initiatives with our all-in-one platform. This allows participants to manage test results, schedule health screenings and vaccinations, receive intelligent engagement based on their programs, and access our broad network of healthcare services. We partner with health plans, government entities, and enterprise companies to simplify the healthcare system and make it easy for consumers to make well-informed decisions about their health.
Contact us today to see how we can make a difference in your organization.