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Health care facilities, including clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals, can be challenging for the average patient to navigate. Aspects of the physical environment, printed materials, and communication patterns may make serve as barriers to patients’ participation in their health care.

Fortunately, health care facilities can take steps to be more accessible to consumers.

  1. Assess the complexity of the current environment by speaking with patients, family members, and staff.
  2. Conduct an audit of the environment.
    1. This involves taking a close look at things like the physical layout, noise level, signs, forms, educational handouts, and communication techniques used by staff.
    2. Guides for performing a health literacy environmental audit in hospitals and health centers, as well as in pharmacies, are available.
  3. Work on problem areas to make the area more health literacy-friendly. For example…
    1. If the assessment in a clinic reveals that the check-in process involves complex forms with small print, the staff can simplify and reformat these documents, as well as offer assistance in their completion.
    2. If the assessment reveals that patients leave the hospital uncertain about the next steps in their care, then staff should receive training on how to communicate more clearly, use teach-back, and effectively solicit questions.