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October is Health Literacy Month; Engage for Health for Better Outcomes and a More Positive Experience

October 08, 2018

October is Health Literacy Month, established during 1999, and an excellent opportunity to focus on the importance of patient and family literacy toward achieving better patient outcomes and providing a more positive patient experience.

Health literacy refers to a patient’s understanding of their health and health care options, the complexity of the health care delivery system and how to maneuver through it, and their ability to make informed decisions about their own or a family member’s care.

A recently released study by Accenture indicates that about 48 percent of Americans have “high health care system literacy.” The remaining 52 percent may not understand:

  • Their health insurance coverage, in-network providers, or the concept of prior authorization
  • How to fill out medical paperwork
  • How to follow up on referrals
  • Proper medication management
  • What questions to ask their providers about their care
  • Their medical bill
  • Their financial responsibility for their care

The Accenture report further states that patients with low or no health literacy utilize customer service departments 13 percent more often than patients with high health literacy. This accounts for approximately $4.8 billion each year in administration costs.

The Health Literacy Month website provides resources for providers to become involved in health literacy activities and become a “Health Literacy Hero” to your community.

During 2014, HAP and its Pennsylvania Hospital Engagement Network created an Engage for Health program to provide education to help patients take an active role in their health care. Since its creation, the program has been used nationwide and is available at the National Network of Libraries of Medicine website. Hospitals, libraries, and health care providers across the nation are working together to conduct Engage for Health programs.

Patients can learn more about how to take an active role in their care by:

  • Watching the online Engage for Health video program
  • Attending an Engage for Health program in their community
  • Reviewing the information available on HAP’s website
  • Joining the Healthy Me PA community (via website, Facebook, and Twitter) for tips to help you understand health care terms and determine effective ways to ask your doctor important questions about your health

HAP encourages patients to learn more about what you can do to better understand your health care.

Additional information is available from HAP’s Jennifer Collins, director, public affairs, at (717) 561-5330.

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