Improving patients’ overall experience and satisfaction with their healthcare treatment has been an essential topic of consideration across all medical institutions over the past several years, and there’s little wonder why. Patient experience and satisfaction are tied directly to patient outcomes, retention, and reimbursement. Because of this, healthcare systems are often looking for new ways to increase patient satisfaction.
Below, our team of healthcare experts from Clearstep will explore one of the significant factors that can profoundly impact patient satisfaction- health literacy. Please continue to learn more about this critical topic, its role in patient satisfaction, and how healthcare systems can leverage it successfully with patients in the future for better results. Also, please consider browsing our wide selection of other great resources covering key medical topics to learn about their impacts on patient outcomes and health system success.
What is Health Literacy, and What Does it Involve?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health literacy is the extent to which people can access, process, and understand essential health information and services, along with their ability to use that information to make appropriate and well-informed health decisions. In short, health literacy refers to a person’s ability to find, understand, and use essential health information and various medical services to make good health decisions on their own behalf.
Many important factors affect people’s health literacy, such as their
- Understanding of how the healthcare system operates
- Knowledge of different medical terms
- Ability to locate health information (which often requires reading, writing, number, and computer skills)
- Ability to communicate effectively with their medical providers
- Physical or mental limitations or disabilities
- Personal factors, including education level, language abilities, culture, income, and age
Why is Health Literacy Important?
Quality health literacy is critical for many reasons, such as its strong correlation with improved patient satisfaction, retention, comfort, and overall trust in medical providers. It’s also important because it allows patients to make better, medically informed decisions about their health, talk openly and effectively with healthcare professionals, and get the medical care they require. A high level of health literacy can also help people lead healthier lifestyles, manage their diseases and conditions (especially chronic ones), and help them better manage their medications.
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How Does Health Literacy Improve Patient Satisfaction?
As briefly stated above, health literacy can majorly impact overall patient satisfaction levels, with higher health literacy typically leading to higher satisfaction with the medical care they receive. Higher patient satisfaction is crucial in several areas, such as patient retention within healthcare systems and their likelihood to reimburse the system for medical costs. Patient satisfaction is also linked to higher levels of system reputation and income.
Additionally, when a patient has a sufficient level of health literacy, they can communicate more effectively with medical professionals and understand crucial medical information needed to make informed healthcare decisions and live healthier lives. All of these factors lead to higher levels of patient satisfaction.
Does Patient Satisfaction Create Better Health Outcomes?
Medical professionals have debated the connection between patient satisfaction (or experience) with clinical outcomes. With that said, there is a growing body of evidence connecting patient satisfaction quality with improved clinical care and patient outcomes. For example, patient experience positively correlates with disease prevention and management care processes.
For many patients, higher satisfaction with healthcare providers is strongly connected to better self-management skills and quality of life. Patient satisfaction and positive patient experiences also correlate with stronger adherence to medical advice and treatment plans, resulting in better health outcomes.
How Can We Improve People’s Health Literacy?
Sadly, the health literacy of patients in the U.S. is very low. According to reports from Pfizer, approximately 36% of adults have only basic or below basic health literacy skills, and only 12% are proficient in their health literacy skills. Thankfully, many healthcare systems and institutions are trying to improve their patient's health literacy in several ways. If a health system’s goal is to improve patient health literacy, it should focus on;
- Educating patients by carefully reviewing diagnoses and updating them on their condition or treatment. Remember to use basic, non-medical language to improve communication and increase the patient’s understanding of the situation.
- Talking directly with patients to answer their questions, correct any misunderstandings they might have, and provide them with practical medical resources that they can use independently to improve their understanding of important health topics.
- Creating or working with an established provider of medical information services that patients can access at any time to help them understand vital medical topics and principles without needing to contact their doctor directly.
Final Thoughts and Factors to Consider
Patient satisfaction is a critical component of an effective health care system and individual treatment efforts, and it’s strongly connected to a patient’s overall level of health literacy. Our team of medical professionals at Clearstep hopes that the resource above has helped explain the importance of health literacy within the world of healthcare and its overall impact on patient satisfaction and outcomes. If you’d like additional information on how you can improve your health system’s patient care, please consider connecting with our team to learn about our clinical AI chat solutions.
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