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4 Tips to Support Healthy Patient Partnerships with Health Literacy

Better health care for your patients involves much more than simply finding the right diagnosis and treatment. Great health happens when patients feel empowered, knowledgeable, and supported by their practitioners. Strong health literacy skills are at the heart of this approach.

How do you foster this kind of healthy partnership between healthcare practitioner and patient?

Here are four ways to improve patient experience and nurture a trusting partnership between you and your patients.

Support Healthy Patient Partnerships with Health Literacy

1. Sit down and remove barriers.

One of the first ways to gain trust from a patient is by truly being present. This means sitting down with that patient and removing any distractions between you. Set your laptop, cell phone, and medical equipment aside for a moment, make eye contact, and listen. If patients have physical or language barriers, be sure to resolve those concerns right away.

2. Use a narrative model rather than the more traditional Q & A model.

Allow your patient to tell the story of his or her illness or state of health. Though there are often important questions that you may need answered, let these be follow-up questions. Making time for your patient to speak uninterrupted will send the message that you are listening and taking into account the pieces of the situation that the patient feels are important. There are not only many clues to the diagnosis in this narrative, but this style allows patients to feel heard and valued.

3. Clearly explain your reasoning.

As you offer ideas for a diagnosis, future testing, prescriptions, or for improving your patient’s health, it is important to be as clear as you can. You may use diagrams or images as needed. And it is always helpful to offer clearly written information to reinforce your verbal discussion.

4. Encourage questions.

At any point in your interaction with your patient, stop and ask if he or she has questions. Be sure to tell your patients that they can interrupt at any point if you are not being clear. You can also offer an email and telephone number for patients to use if they have questions that come up after their visit. Direct patients to websites such as the National Patient Safety Foundation, which designed the patient education program, “Ask Me 3®,” and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which launched the “Questions are the Answer” campaign. These resources will help your patients determine the most important questions to ask in any healthcare setting.

Garnering trust in your patients is paramount to patient engagement and improved health outcomes. Take some time to incorporate these steps into your daily routine and take note of the positive changes that result.

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