Low health literacy is directly associated with higher mortality, poorer health status and increased hospital and ER use. One-third of all adults have problems understanding even basic information; such as how to care for themselves after leaving the hospital or how to read a medication label. With the emphasis now on value-based reimbursement and population health management, improving health literacy can directly impact your bottom line. Steve Sparks, health literacy director of Health Literacy Wisconsin, works with health care providers and other organizations to find out who is most at risk and provide easy steps to improve health literacy. Here, he explains why you should attend the Health Literacy Summit and also gives communicators some solid advice for facing health literacy on your own. Sparks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the purpose of the Wisconsin Health Literacy organization?
We want to reduce the gap between health communications and the ability of people to understand and act upon them. While low health literacy used to be viewed as a “patient problem,” we recognize that all health care stakeholders have a role in improving health literacy.
What is your role as director?
We’re trying to increase awareness of how widespread the problem of low health literacy really is. A major emphasis is encouraging organizations to adopt the “universal precautions” approach in health literacy. Since we can’t always “tell by looking” who has low health literacy, we need to assume all patients have difficulty comprehending health information and accessing health services. We need to simplify communication and confirm comprehension for all patients so the risk of miscommunication is minimized.
What are some pressing trends/challenges in health literacy are we facing right now?
With health care in transition, it is even more important that we pay attention to low health literacy. We know that only 12 percent of adults are fully proficient in health literacy, and even those individuals can have problems when they don’t feel well or are going through difficult times. One-third of all adults have problems understanding even basic information such as how to care for themselves after leaving the hospital or how to read a medication label. We know that low health literacy is directly associated with higher mortality, poorer health status and increased hospital and ER use. With the emphasis now on value-based reimbursement and population health management, improving health literacy can directly impact the bottom line.
Improving health literacy also is important in improving patient engagement. One of the aspects we often don’t often think about is the health literacy of our own employees. Many health care workers fall into the at-risk categories: those with chronic diseases, non-native speakers of English, people with low incomes, and racial and ethnic minorities. Health-literate employee communications can help improve employee satisfaction with benefits, reduce costs through more effective use of health care services, and increase participation in wellness programs.
What kinds of breakout sessions will be included in the summit?
Twenty-five breakout sessions are offered in five subject tracks, one of which is health communication. Topics include plain language training, website evaluation, social media health literate messaging, and other topics designed for a wide range of clinical and non-clinical audiences. A pre-summit session on writing and designing effective communication is especially useful for those with responsibility for patient and family printed communications.
Why should hospital marketing/communications attend the summit? What key takeaways will they gain?
Marketing and communications professionals have an increasingly important role in closing the communications gap. By improving the ability of communications to effectively reach all audiences, including those with low health literacy, organizations can be more successful and patients will be healthier and more satisfied. Thus, by better understanding how to improve health literacy, professionals will not only directly impact results but at the same time become more valuable to their organization.
The Summit is designed to give attendees actionable take-a-ways. In fact, the final session consists of a rapid-fire list of 40 specific things shared by speakers that attendees can do tomorrow, next week or next month to improve health literacy.
Wisconsin Health Literacy Summit:
Better Health through Better Communication
April 13-15, 2015
Monona Terrace Community and Conference Center, Madison
For details or to register, CLICK HERE.
This post was written and researched by Trish (Skram) Reed. If you have other news, resources or links to share, please comment below or email Trish (Skram) Reed, blogger and research content specialist for WHPRMS, at email@example.com.