Nursing and Staff Guide to Addressing and Evaluating Health Literacy

Patients with lower levels of health literacy often feel ashamed and may in turn be unwilling to disclose confusion about health information and concerns they may be having.1

Establishing a safe environment to promote health literacy:

  1. Offering patients assistance in completing forms in a confidential manner and location if possible.2
  2. Simplify forms as much as possible. This includes using clear, non-medical language when possible, and using formats that are easy to read.3
  3. Explain any referrals or instruction for post-appointment follow-up in a clear and concise manner. Ensuring to include clear and simple written instructions.
    1. When possible, schedule follow-up at the end of the initial appointment.


Health literacy tools and suggestions to evaluate health literacy in patients:

  1. Many patients with low health literacy mask their level of understanding. Asking direct questions about their comfort level in understanding medical information and filling out forms can allow you to potentially gauge patients’ level of health literacy.
  2. When explaining important health, medical, or pharmaceutical information use tools such as the teach-back method to confirm patient understanding.
    1. When explaining medications, ask the patient to read labels, and tell you what the recommended doses and frequency for each medication are.
  3. When possible, give the patient written confirmation of all health and medical conversations that took place during the patient’s appointment, as reference material. Include photos when possible.4
  4. Check out the HispanicHealth.Info hub for more health literacy information and tools for patients and providers.


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