The definition of health literacy places emphasis on the individual’s abilities. However, health literacy is really about the interaction between individuals and the health care system. Doctors and other health care providers need to communicate in a way that is easy for the average person to understand. This can be called “clear health communication.”
Clear health communication between health care providers and patients can help to improve understanding. Techniques that providers can use include:
- Speak in simple language and avoid jargon terms
- Focus on key information needed for the visit
- Listen to patients or families about their needs or concerns
- Make information relevant to the family’s culture
- Use simple educational materials that have pictures to help explain things
- Use interpreters, language lines, and language specific information for those that don’t speak English as their main language
- Work together with patients to make decisions and set goals
- Ask patients to share back information learned or plans made
Unfortunately, clear health communication does not occur in most medical office visits, though it should! Below are some things you can do to encourage your provider and others to practice clear health communication!
Visit our "What Can Patients and Families Do?"  page to learn about things you can do to encourage your provider and others to practice clear health communication!