Interventions to Improve Care for Patients with Limited Health Literacy

J Clin Outcomes Manag. 2009 Jan 1;16(1):20-29.


OBJECTIVE: To propose a framework and describe best practices for improving care for patients with limited health literacy (LHL). METHODS: Review of the literature. RESULTS: Approximately half of the U.S. adult population has LHL. Because LHL is associated with poor health outcomes and contributes to health disparities, the adoption of evidence-based best practices is imperative. Feasible interventions at the clinician-patient level (eg, patient-centered communication, clear communication techniques, teach-to-goal methods, and reinforcement), at the system-patient level (eg, clear health education materials, visual aids, clear medication labeling, self-management support programs, and shame-free clinical environments), and at the community-patient level (eg, adult education referrals, lay health educators, and harnessing the mass media) can improve health outcomes for patients with LHL. CONCLUSION: Because LHL is prevalent, and because the recommended communication strategies can benefit patients of all literacy levels, clinicians, health system planners, and health policy leaders should promote the uptake of these strategies into routine care.