Note to self
As far back as the mid-1990s, healthcare professionals and academics have heralded health literacy as the cornerstone of patient empowerment. Yet decades later and amid growing demand from patients – who have evolved from passive to active participants in improving their own health – the gap between what HCPs know and what patients understand continues to hamper progress.
What should be done to lessen the gulf? There are two issues that need to be tackled: the language used to transfer knowledge from HCP to patient and the channels used to do this.
The language needs to be simple, effective and tailored – a tough ask in a face-to-face, 10-minute consultation: one that emphasises the need for easily accessible, high-quality supporting materials. And then there’s the debate about how to best deliver this information.
With more channels than ever before through which to communicate, cutting through the noise with accurate audience-appropriate content has never been more difficult. In the meantime at least, materials in a variety of media is likely the only answer.
There are numerous hurdles in the race to improve patient information – a re-evaluation of the HCP–patient relationship, where the balance of power (if not knowledge) has definitely shifted, to name one. Complex as this re-programming exercise is, promoting informed decision making and health literacy is essential to improving self-management in health.
Patient education that incorporates self-management and empowerment have proven to be cost effective – improved health literacy boosts patient outcomes and alleviates financial pressure on the cash-strapped NHS. And every stakeholder has their part to play.
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