Improving Health Literacy: A 3-Step Systemwide Approach
Improving health literacy across a large healthcare organization can be challenging. Your organization may already recognize that improving the health literacy skills of your workforce is associated with better health outcomes, enhanced patient experience and can lead to lowering health care costs. However, we understand that implementing a large scale health literacy initiative can feel overwhelming.
With resources being scarce, most organizations do not have a specific role that is responsible for health literacy education and integration. And while health literacy is a cross cutting priority that is important for everyone in your organization to understand, there is often the assumption that other colleagues in the organization have the responsibility for health literacy education. In actuality, what ends up happening is that no one is overseeing health literacy education and monitoring best practices. So where do you begin? A three-pronged approach to the process allows you to make long term gains in a cost effective manner. Using strategic planning, train-the-trainer sessions and e-learning courses, allows even large and diverse teams of health care providers to increase their knowledge and consistently implement key health literacy principles.
Our three-step, integrated approach to enhancing health literacy follows this process:
Develop a Strategic Plan: Many health and community organizations are unsure where to begin and want to make sure they prioritize the most impactful work. It’s beneficial to begin with the development of a health literacy strategic plan that looks at the policies, processes and ongoing training needed to develop and sustain a culturally and linguistically appropriate environment and a health literate organization. Health Literacy Partners can help you assess your organization’s strengths and identify opportunities to enhance health literacy integration throughout your mission, vision, structure and operations.
Train-the-Trainer Education: Once your goals are identified, we recommend a train-the-trainer approach for scaling education and best practices through a large organization and across vast demographic areas. If there’s not currently an individual with a health literacy role on site, training materials can be developed and provided so a point person or team can accurately and consistently train others within the organization. Typically at Health Literacy Partners, we do a two-day training session where we teach the first day then spend the second day having the participants teach-back the content. This allows us to evaluate the accuracy of the information being presented as well as the participant’s teaching skills. We develop tailored educational materials and provide resources both electronically and in print. To further enhance the education, we encourage the new health literacy trainers to incorporate their own stories applicable to their organization and patient population.
E-Learning Courses to Sustain Learning: Customized e-learning courses are an efficient way to help your staff enhance and maintain effective patient-provider communication and reinforce health literacy best practices. The curriculum can be highly tailored and personalized for specific organizations—large or small—and individualized healthcare populations. Always-available e-learning modules reinforce ongoing education and foster health literate, culturally and linguistically appropriate practices that are sustainable over the long-term.
Providing a high-quality patient experience is likely central to your mission and a benchmark that you are continually trying to improve upon. When clinicians and staff are trained to always communicate clearly and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care, patient experience and safety improves, health outcomes improve and costs decline. Reach out to us at Health Literacy Partners and learn more about the services we can provide to your organization when using this 3-step approach. All services can be modified and customized to meet the needs of your organization. Read about how we have helped others successfully integrate health literacy.