Managing chronic health conditions can be difficult when patients have low health literacy. Navigating and understanding a complex health care system is challenging. With the right training, health care professionals can communicate with patients more appropriately depending on their health literacy level.2
What is Health Literacy?
The CDC has defined Health literacy as:
- Personal health literacy: the degree to which individuals can find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1
- Organizational health literacy: the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.1
Health literacy is simply your ability to understand information about your body and health.5 Based on these definitions, people and organizations can use their health literacy skills to improve the health of their communities.1
Low Health Literacy Factors
Low health literacy leads to communication barriers between patients and their healthcare providers. It also results in a variety of negative health outcomes for patients.4 A few factors that lead to low health literacy are:
- Age: on average, adults aged 65 and older have lower health literacy than adults under 65.4
- Access to resources such as technology5
- Having a health condition that requires complex self-care.5
Why Health Literacy is Important
Understanding health information and services affects your health outcomes. Your level of health literacy determines your ability to navigate through the healthcare system, utilize preventative services and share your personal information with healthcare providers.5 Furthermore, having good health literacy skills enables you to:
- Understand the choices you have about treatments, doctors and other items related to your condition.5
- Stick to your treatment plan.5
- Answer questions about your health conditions.5
- Decide which services and options are best for you.5
Steps to Improve Your Health Literacy
If you would like to improve your health literacy:
- Ask questions: Do not be afraid to ask your healthcare professional questions. Explain that you are having a hard time understanding, they will be happy to help.5
- Ask for handouts: Handouts or other materials are helpful at explaining complicated information.5
- Do not believe everything that you read on the internet: Not all medical information websites are reviewed by experts. A good way to check if a website is reputable is to make sure the information is reviewed, confirmed and supported by different organizations.5
- Repeat what your doctor tells you in your own words: This will give you an opportunity to clarify anything that you misunderstood or discover anything you misheard.5
Tria Health & Health Literacy:
Tria Health is a no cost benefit available through select members’ health plans. Tria Health’s Pharmacy Advocate Program offers one-on-one, private consultations with a Tria Health Pharmacist. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. Tria Health will assist you in identifying any possible drug interactions or savings opportunities! Your pharmacist will work with you and your doctor(s) to ensure the intended outcomes from your medications are being received. Tria Health is here to help patients navigate their way through the multifaceted process of attaining care and properly utilizing their benefits. Our pharmacists take the time to make sure patients understand their conditions and how to effectively manage them.
Patient Success Story: Tria Triumph
Data does not lie; the real challenge lies when patients do not understand their data. Health literacy is key in this Tria Triumph.
A patient with diabetes had a consultation with one of our pharmacists. Her blood sugars were all over the place and she was feeling down. Our pharmacist uncovered that this patient was not taking her medications correctly and was also using an expired insulin pen. She did not completely understand her diagnosis, or the purpose of her medications.
Our pharmacist took the time to educate her on what diabetes is and how it affects her body. Additionally, our pharmacist recommended she talk with her doctor about an easier medication regimen.
Now this patient feels fantastic! Her doctor accepted the medication changes, and she is taking her medications as our pharmacist advised. Her blood sugar readings are excellent, and she feels better.
Because of the Tria Health program, this patient understands her diagnosis, knows how to effectively manage it and has the confidence to discuss outcomes with her providers.
Contact the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742
- What Is Health Literacy? | Health Literacy | CDC
- Health Literacy | Official web site of the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (hrsa.gov)
- Health Literacy | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- Health Literacy | Healthy People 2020
- Health Literacy: Why it’s Important and How to Improve it (breastcancer.org)