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  • Writer's pictureDarakhshan Nehal

7 Reasons to Increase Your Patients’ Health Literacy and How to Do It

blog cover with heading 7 reasons to increase your patients' health literacy and how to do it

Should you increase your patients' health literacy? Yes, and here are seven reasons you should and how to do it effectively.

In this article


Patients' health literacy is one of the key elements for a solid healthcare system.

Health literacy involves reading, understanding, and applying health-related information to make informed decisions. It goes beyond just reading — it's about understanding medical instructions, navigating the healthcare system, and interpreting health-related details.

Strong health literacy means your patient can use the information provided to take charge of their health and make decisions that contribute to their overall well-being.

Here are seven reasons to increase your patient’s health literacy and how to do it.

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1. Making your patients aware of common medical terminologies

For someone without a medical background, terms like hypertension and hyperthyroidism may seem intimidating. So, you can make them familiar with the terms by explaining what they mean.

This allows your patients to understand medical information better and make informed decisions about their health. This is important for choosing appropriate treatments and preventive measures.

Additionally, it's beneficial for them to understand the normal ranges related to their condition.

For instance, a person with hypertension should know the normal blood pressure range. This applies to individuals with anemia or diabetes mellitus as well. This not only makes them familiar with their own condition but also teaches them how their body works.

2. Helping your patients respond to health fluctuations and emergency

When patients are familiar with their condition, they learn to respond to changes. For instance, if someone has hypertension, a sudden episode of fainting should serve as a red flag to promptly check their blood pressure.

Health-literate individuals are better equipped to manage chronic conditions. They can monitor their symptoms, recognize warning signs, and take appropriate actions to better self-manage their health conditions.

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3. Improving cost-effective healthcare

Patients with higher health literacy may use healthcare resources more efficiently. They are less likely to seek unnecessary medical interventions, reducing healthcare costs and optimizing resource allocation.

Taking a proactive approach to preventive care, including regular check-ups, minimizes the need for extensive treatments later on.

For example, as a healthcare professional, you can increase health literacy by educating patients about antibiotic resistance. Patients must understand that antibiotics combat bacterial infections, not viral illnesses like the flu.

4. Helping your patients understand how medicines and their bodies work

Knowing how common medications work, such as understanding that paracetamol helps with fever or recognizing which pill in their stack lowers blood pressure, empowers individuals in managing their health.

It's crucial to realize that taking medications isn't a cure-all and fearing them won't help either.

This helps your patients actively take control of their health, understand their medications, adhere to proper usage guidelines, and be proactive in managing their well-being.

Picture of a stethoscope, laptop and a notebook

5. Debunking infodemic

Infodemic — the rapid spread of both accurate and inaccurate information — can make it challenging for patients to separate facts from fiction. Engaging with your patients becomes a powerful tool in helping them sift through the vast online information landscape.

Part of health literacy is guiding patients in discerning reliable sources and helping them understand the potential repercussions of following health trends without a credible basis.

While debunking infodemic won't completely solve the issue, fostering health literacy ensures that patients can make informed decisions and hopefully steer clear of harmful trends.

6. Understanding medicine composition and follow-up routine

Encourage your patients to know the composition of their medications instead of brand names. It's common for patients to recall medication details based on packaging or pill color, which can lead to mix-ups.

However, a clear understanding of medications like paracetamol, cetirizine, amoxicillin, and their appropriate usage times is vital.

Another important aspect of prescription is your patient must understand the routine. For example, people often get confused between “twice” or “thrice” a day.

7. Extending empathy and communication

Encouraging patient engagement in discussions is an important way to increase health literacy. This is especially true for immigrants navigating healthcare in a language not their own.

Their challenges in understanding charts, prescriptions, doses, and follow-up routines often result in increased hospital visits and unnecessary medical expenses.

Consider tailoring communication to each patient’s comfort level, using plain language to explain medical terminologies.

Patients who feel seen and understood are more likely to establish long-term relationships with their healthcare providers. Empathy goes a long way and offers that human touch that differentiates it from artificial intelligence.

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It's a wrap!

These points are connected, emphasizing the key role of communication and active listening in health literacy. Patients should be familiar with their conditions and history, be able to detect misinformation and know how to respond.

Health literacy isn’t just about dealing with sickness — it’s about empowering your patients, helping them maintain healthy lifestyles, and impacting their well-being and that of an entire community.

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