Publication

How Can Health Care Organizations Become More Health Literate? - Workshop Summary


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Note: Proceedings contain the opinion of the presenters, but do NOT reflect the conclusions of the Health and Medicine Division or the National Academies. Learn more about the differences between Reports and Proceedings.

Approximately 80 million adults in the United States have low health literacy – an individual’s ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information. Low health literacy creates difficulties in communicating with clinicians, poses barriers in managing chronic illness, lessens the likelihood of receiving preventive care, heightens the possibility of experiencing serious medication errors, increased risk of hospitalization, and results in poorer quality of life.

It is important for health care organizations to develop strategies that can improve their health literacy, yet organizations often find it difficult to determine exactly what it means to be health literate. The IOM Roundtable on Health Literacy commissioned a paper that defined a health literate health care organization as “an organization that makes it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health.” In November 2011, the roundtable held a workshop to discuss the growing recognition that health literacy depends not only on individual skills and abilities but also on the demands and complexities of the health care system. This document summarizes the workshop.