When it comes to our healthcare, knowledge is power. Being able to understand your medical care, medications, and treatments gives you the confidence and control of making informed decisions about your health with your healthcare provider. Unfortunately, many Americans still lack basic healthcare literacy which can lead to serious health complications over time. Today we’re going to discuss why healthcare literacy is so important and how you can start taking control of yours.
Healthcare is a complex and ever-evolving system. For those with aging parents, navigating this system can be overwhelming. It’s even harder for those who face language and literacy barriers that make it difficult to understand medical terms and paperwork. Fortunately, there are ways to improve healthcare literacy so that everyone can better access the care they need.
What Is Healthcare Literacy?
Healthcare literacy is the ability to understand and use healthcare information to make important decisions about your health. Despite the fact that healthcare is a critical part of our lives, there are still many barriers that prevent people from achieving a baseline level of healthcare literacy. Let’s explore some of these barriers and how we can break them down.
Healthcare literacy is the ability to access, understand, and use information. This means being able to read, interpret, and act upon instructions and advice related to medical issues or treatments. Low healthcare literacy can leave people feeling confused or overwhelmed when trying to navigate the healthcare system. This can lead to poor communication between patients and providers, resulting in inadequate diagnosis or treatment plans.
For those that struggle with understanding the complexities of our healthcare system, Your Nurse Advocates can come along side you and take this journey with you to make sure you have the knowledge and understanding to make informed healthcare decisions. You can connect with us in our Free Community Forum, “Speaking Out on Caring for Your Aging Parent.” Request to join HERE.
Why is Healthcare Literacy So Important?
Health literacy is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and making informed decisions about our health care. However, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy skills.
Many adults may have difficulty completing routine health tasks like understanding a drug label or using a map to locate the closest health center. Without this foundational knowledge we are unable to make educated decisions regarding our own care when it matters most — at the doctor’s office or hospital. This can lead to dangerous miscommunication between patient and provider that could have serious implications for our health down the line.
Low-income communities are particularly vulnerable when it comes to low healthcare literacy levels due to limited access to quality education programs as well as language barriers that prevent them from seeking the help they need. It’s essential that we take steps now towards increasing healthcare literacy rates in order to ensure everyone has equal access to quality medical care regardless of their economic status or language barrier.
One of the primary barriers to healthcare literacy is accessibility. For example, if someone does not have access to the internet or has limited access to reliable medical providers, they may struggle to find resources on their own or take advantage of medical services when needed. This can be especially true for those who live in rural areas where medical care is often more limited or difficult to access.
Medicare has a program now for seniors called ACP or Affordable Connectivity Program. This program can offer a monthly discount on new or existing internet services for those seniors that qualify. You can learn more about that HERE.
Additionally, those with physical disabilities can also face challenges in accessing the resources they need due to lack of mobility or other physical limitations.
Patient Advocate Match is a directory of healthcare professionals that you may not have heard of. One of the ways to improve your healthcare literacy is to be aware of resources. Our directory is free for everyone to access. You can view a “welcome” video the professional and learn more about their services from them. You get to meet them virtually and see you you might be a good fit before you contact them regarding their services.
We have many resources available. Dementia care, women’s heath, chronic disease management, health coaches, music therapy, therapy, home safety, patient advocates, advocates that help with medical bills, grief, pet professionals, mental health professionals and dealing with caregiver burnout, autism specialists, and the list goes on and on. Check out the directory HERE.
Another barrier that keeps people from achieving healthcare literacy is language. While English may be a person’s first language, it may not be their only language—which can lead to confusion and misunderstanding when trying to gain access to medical care and information. Furthermore, medical terminology can often be complex and difficult for even native English speakers to understand and comprehend. This makes it even harder for those unfamiliar with certain terms or phrases used in medicine and health related fields.
Your Nurse Advocate Consulting and Patient Advocate Match can help you find a patient advocate that can assist you with your primary language.
Financial resources are also an enormous barrier when it comes to achieving healthcare literacy as many people simply cannot afford certain types of treatment or medication due to financial constraints.
Even for those with insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs associated with various procedures, medications, etc., can add up quickly—leaving many unable to seek the help they need due to financial hardship.
Furthermore, this lack of financial resources may also leave individuals unable or unwilling to seek out important health information or advice due to cost concerns as well leading them towards inaccurate information sources instead of credible ones such as trusted medical professionals or reliable websites Center for Disease Control, Mayo Clinic, etc.
How Can I Increase My Healthcare Literacy?
The first step towards increasing your healthcare literacy is understanding what resources are available and how you can use them effectively.
There are numerous websites dedicated specifically to helping people learn more about their medical care such as MedlinePlus which offers free online tutorials on how medications work, how various diseases affect the body, and other important topics related to patient education. We have included this website in the resource section. You can always look on our directory as well to see if there maybe is a professional that can help you.
Your Nurse Advocates Consulting is an R.N. based company that provides individualized plans and education to help break down the barrier of healthcare literacy. We have over 80 years combined nursing experience and we have many options to utilize our services. We have 1:1 consulting where we work for you to address your healthcare concerns and make sure you have the information necessary to make informed healthcare decisions. We also have workshops, webinars, a free community forum, and so much more to meet you where you are at in caring for your aging parents.
Additionally, there are plenty of books written for those looking for an in-depth look at a particular condition or treatment option — these can be found at your local library or online retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The key is doing research before any scheduled appointments so that you know what questions need answered before meeting with your provider face-to-face!
Shattering the boundaries of healthcare literacy starts with taking ownership over our own health by learning more about it! With a little bit of research and dedication, anyone can increase their understanding of their own medical care, so they feel confident making decisions with their provider going forward! By using resources like MedlinePlus or reading books on specific conditions and treatments, we can all become better advocates for our own health — no matter who we are or where we come from!
For those that need a little extra help, patient advocates are available in your area. We would be honored and privileged to earn your trust and serve you and your family’s needs. You may stay connected to us and learn more by joining our free community HERE. If your needs are pressing and you need help quickly, please reach out and schedule a free 30-minute consultation so see if we can assist with your needs.
The goal of improving healthcare literacy is ultimately about creating an equitable environment where everyone has equal access to quality care regardless of age or background—and it’s something we should all strive towards achieving no matter our profession or circumstance. By breaking down language barriers and increasing accessibility through translation services or audio recordings of important documents, we can create a more inclusive healthcare system that provides quality care regardless of one’s ability level. By doing so we shatter the boundaries of what was once thought impossible in terms of patient education and communication within the healthcare system!
Take care and we look forward to seeing you back here soon for more information on managing the care for your aging parents.
Patient Advocate Match
“Matching the Right Healthcare Resources for the Right Reasons.”
Patient Advocate Match Directory