Improving professional health literacy in hospitals: study protocol of a participatory codesign and implementation study

BMJ Open. 2021 Aug 16;11(8):e045835. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-045835.


Introduction: In connection with a hospital stay, patients have to make important health-related decisions. They need to find, understand, assess and apply health-related information, and therefore, require health literacy. Adequately responding to the needs of patients requires promoting the communication skills of healthcare professionals within healthcare organisations. Health-literate healthcare organisations can provide an environment strengthening professionals' and patients' health literacy. When developing health-literate healthcare organisations, it has to be considered that implementing organisational change is typically challenging. In this study, a communication concept based on previously evaluated communication training is codesigned, implemented and evaluated in four clinical departments of a university hospital.

Method and analysis: In a codesign phase, focus group interviews among employees and patients as well as a workshop series with employees and hospital management are used to tailor the communication concept to the clinical departments and to patients' needs. Also, representatives responsible for the topic of health literacy are established among employees. The communication concept is implemented over a 12-month period; outcomes studied are health literacy on the organisational and patient levels. Longitudinal survey data acquired from a control cohort prior to the implementation phase are compared with data of an intervention cohort after the implementation phase. Moreover, survey data from healthcare professionals before and after the implementation are compared. For formative evaluation, healthcare professionals are interviewed in focus groups.

Ethics and dissemination: The study protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Medical Faculty of the University of Oldenburg and is in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. Study participants are asked to provide written informed consent. The results are disseminated via direct communication within the hospital, publications and conference presentations. If the intervention turns out to be successful, the intervention and implementation strategies will be made available to other hospitals.

Trial registration number: DRKS00019830.

Keywords: medical education & training; organisation of health services; organisational development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Personnel
  • Hospitals, University
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent

Associated data

  • DRKS/DRKS00019830