clearly comprehend instructions and information provided in non-native languages. T e Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recently reported that the number of people in the U.S. who speak a language other than English has grown by 140 percent over the last three decades. Along with the challenges of providing resources that truly
address limited health literacy, it is also diffi cult for healthcare organizations to keep content up to date. In an ever-evolving healthcare landscape, the latest industry facts, evidence and best practices can quickly become outdated. Resource-strapped hospitals and clinical settings are simply unable to address this need for regular monitoring of content, such that patients can always trust that the information is accurate.
Improving the outlook Many hospitals are currently researching the options
available to build patient-centered websites or patient portals to facilitate easier communication. To ensure compatibility, many EHR vendors are fi nding that they need to develop patient portals as an extension of the complete EHR system. As developers progressively consider how to approach the foundation of these applications, it will be critical that they work with educational publishers to create libraries of clinical topics that are written with non-clinical patients in mind. Also important is to identify solutions that provide regular updates to content as industry evidence changes. T e National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy has outlined seven goals to improve health literacy. T ese combine strategies for improving delivery of patient education, as well as collaborative eff orts on local and state levels to promote better education and knowledge of today’s critical healthcare issues. A primary goal outlined in the plan is the need to “develop and disseminate health and safety information that is accurate, accessible and actionable.” Attaining this goal through patient portals requires that patients have access to resources that are actionable in that they can be understood by a diverse popu- lation encompassing all ages, races, incomes and education levels. While the needs of these groups may vary, one common denominator for all patients – who may be facing signifi cant stress from illness or injury – is the need for clear and simple information. Critically important to identifying appropriate education tools to integrate into patient portals is an understanding that not all reference materials are equal in their ability to address limited health literacy. Vendors need to consider how best to provide education leafl ets for drugs and diseases designed to reach the average reading level of the public, as well as consumer-level interaction monographs that can be used in conjunction with some clinical decision-support functions. Other considerations include language support and large-print options for the sight impaired.
Simplicity should be a primary driver when considering sentence structures and graphics. Industry recommendations suggest fi fth- and seventh-grade reading levels as good targets for reaching the masses, but the reality is that most resources currently available are written at a higher level. Also, resource materials should take into consideration that learning styles vary. Some patients respond well to the written word; others respond better to simple, age- and audience-appropriate illustrations accompanied by short, bulleted statements. Drawings that are action oriented or tell a story can confi rm or reinforce the message relayed through the written word. An overarching need is language support. Healthcare organizations should be prepared for the reality that meeting the linguistic needs of patients is expected to remain a focal point of national regulatory discussions going forward. T e National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropri- ate Services (CLAS) states that “healthcare organizations must make available easily understood patient-related materials and post signage in the languages of the commonly encoun- tered groups and/or groups represented in the service areas.”
care is a positive movement that has the potential to transform and improve care deliv- ery through more proactive patient engagement. Criti- cal to the success of this movement are patient education strate- gies that address limited health literacy through the provision of appropriate consumer-level content that addresses written, cultural and linguistic needs. As Stage 2 MU drives more active electronic access to
An overarching need is language support. Healthcare organizations should be prepared for the reality that meeting the linguistic needs of patients is expected to remain a focal point of national regulatory discussions going forward.
patient records and more electronic interaction between pa- tients and clinicians, access to the best educational resources in patient portals will be critical to success. Meaningful use is just one of many federal initiatives driving the need for more focused patient education strategies designed to eliminate the revolving-door eff ect in healthcare. Forward-looking healthcare organizations understand that
a culture of patient education that draws on the best resources and teaching strategies will be critical for success in the present and future pay-for-performance landscape.
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