Health literacy skills enable individuals to proactively take control of their health and make better healthcare choices. There are two components of health literacy: personal and organizational health literacy.

Organizations that pursue organizational health literacy (OHL) make it easier for individuals to manage their health by making changes to improve communication, navigate healthcare, and boost engagement in the healthcare journey.

Here’s more on the importance of organizational health literacy and some strategies organizations can use to respond to the health literacy needs of individuals.

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Understanding organizational health literacy

Health literacy is not just the result of individual capacities but also the health literacy-related demands and complexities of the healthcare system [1]. While more people may be familiar with personal health literacy, health literacy is also vital at the organizational level. Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others [2].

Organizational health literacy and personal health literacy are connected, as one cannot exist without the other, and the responsibility of improving health literacy does not solely fall on the individual. This public health perspective on health literacy highlights the responsibility that healthcare organizations have in driving health equity by improving health literacy.

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Strategies to improve organizational health literacy

Improve spoken and written communication

Without clear communication, individuals cannot be expected to engage in healthcare as recommended. Organizations that offer health information that is complex and difficult to understand create unnecessary barriers to good health. It is crucial to consider the populations served when designing, implementing, and evaluating healthcare services and materials to ensure they are relevant, appropriate, and helpful.

Processes organizations can use to ensure clear communication include:

  • Using simple language and visual aids like models, pictures, or videos
  • Providing clear instructions
  • Encouraging questions to engage patients as active partners in their healthcare
  • Confirming comprehension using the teach-back or show-me method
  • Being sensitive to the culture, customs, and beliefs of patients
  • Providing qualified interpreters and clinical staff certified to deliver care in languages other than English
  • Having processes in place to review materials with patients

Bridge the digital divide

Incorporating digital health literacy strategies like telehealth can help individuals manage their health and understand their conditions more effectively. While making informed healthcare decisions can be difficult, telehealth can help patients understand their conditions over time and empower them to take a proactive approach to their health. Organizations that want to help bridge the digital divide should ensure their websites, apps, and patient portals are easy to access, navigate, and understand.

Make healthcare navigation easy

Healthcare systems can be complex, fragmented, and difficult to navigate. The consequences for individuals can be significant, preventing them from obtaining and understanding their health information and services needed to make informed decisions.

Health literacy and access to care are interconnected, as individuals with low health literacy are much more likely than individuals with adequate health literacy to delay or forgo needed care or to report difficulty finding a provider [3]. For organizations to achieve greater health literacy, it is essential to improve access to accurate and actionable health information and usable health services. Organizations can help by offering support for navigating healthcare facilities and systems.

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How LetsGetChecked can help

Organizations implementing health literacy strategies can advance health equity, reduce health disparities, and improve health outcomes. LetsGetChecked’s suite of healthcare solutions can help by making it easy for individuals to understand and manage their health and make informed healthcare decisions. We can meet your people where they are with crucial health insights that encourage them to act.