Feature September 7, 2022 John Bernot, MD

Overcoming health literacy barriers for increased care plan accessibility

Providers can help patients overcome health literacy barriers for increased care plan accessibility.

You cannot tell someone’s literacy level just by looking at them. A person may present themselves professionally, communicate well, and appear to understand their care plan instructions. However, this does not mean that they genuinely do.

It is best to approach care with the understanding that even those who appear well educated may still struggle with health-related information. The language used in the healthcare field is uncommon in everyday language, and even those with strong educational backgrounds may not understand their diagnosis or what is being asked of them.

There is a lot of correlation that speaks to low health literacy and outcomes; however, the relationship between both is complex. For example, you may find that an individual has an overall high literacy level but exhibits low health literacy. 

Low health literacy levels sometimes lead to medical errors and delayed care. Patients may misinterpret the dosage instructions on their medication. They may also miss follow-up appointments due to a misunderstanding of the care plan, resulting in delayed care. 

Understanding the impact and barriers of low health literacy 

According to a study on low health literacy1, behavioral and verbal responses commonly observed in patients with low health literacy include inaccurate registration forms and other incomplete paperwork.

Understanding that low or limited health literacy skills are more dominant among specific population groups and are linked to poor health outcomes allows providers to break down barriers and reconsider the most effective approach. 

It is important to note that: 

  • Higher literacy skills ≠ understanding
  • Anxiety about health can reduce the ability to manage health information
  • Everyone benefits from clear communication 
  • The delivery of care should be structured as if everyone may have limited health literacy

How can providers help patients with low levels of health literacy?

Providers should enter into a patient-care relationship understanding that patients have varying education or literacy levels. These can become barriers to understanding health information.  

It is essential that providers help patients make appropriate health care decisions. A dynamic patient engagement platform like Ayva enables providers to help their patients better navigate the healthcare system and care plans. 

Here’s how: 

  1. Have information available online at all times where an advocate can help—this way, a family member or trusted friend can access the care plan.
  2. Use photos and how-to videos available on their mobile devices to explain instructions, making it easier for a patient with low health literacy.
  3. Offer proactive two-way communication options so patients can ask questions.
  4. Use plain language that links to educational articles that explain a particular condition instead of assuming a patient knows what it is. And, most importantly, sending this information at the right time in the care journey.
  5. Encourage and monitor patients along the care journey so they know they’re following instructions accurately. 

Providers can benefit from making care plans accessible to patients

Digital health tools like Ayva can also help providers meet their value-based care goals and maximize reimbursements while making strides to improve patient outcomes. 

The goal of making care plans more accessible is to meet patients where they are and at their health literacy level, without negatively impacting the patient experience. 

Learn how Ayva can help. 

 Meet Ayva today!

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Shane Andreasen

Bravado Health


Bravado Health Media Line


(561) 805-5935