Use the Health Literacy Universal Precautions toolkit (AHRQ) for a comprehensive approach to creating a more health literate organization.
Click on the headings below for specific tools and strategies:
Make sure that any form that patients need to complete are simple and in plain language. Offer help completing forms.
Examples of forms* from the AHRQ tool kit include:
Research Consent Forms:*
* Note: these forms were developed in the USA. They are provided as examples of how to prepare forms in plain language and an easy-to-read format.
Instead of asking "Do you have questions", ask "What questions do you have about...?" or "What are your concerns?"
Use open ended questions to assess health and learning needs
Tools to encourage questions
1. What is my health problem?
2. What do I need to do?
3. Why is it important to do this?
Use plain, non-medical language. Avoid using medical jargon. Use common words that you would use to explain medical information to your friends or family, such as stomach or belly, instead of abdomen. (AHRQ Toolkit)
Use the patient's words. Take note of what words your patient uses to describe their illness and use them in your conversation.
Tailor your teaching to the needs of your patients and their families.
Patient-centred approaches to teaching health information:
Use teach-back to check your success in communicating information to patients/family members.
Teach-back is an evidence-based health literacy intervention. It promotes patient engagement, patient safety, adherence and quality (AHRQ Teach-Back Implementation Quick Start Guide)
Teach-back involves asking patients to explain back information in their own words. For example:
Tools and Resources
Videos and eLearning
Provide plain language patient education resources that patients and families can consult at their own pace.
Refer patients to supports provided at St. Michael's Hospital:
Link to organizations that can provide support at home and in the community
Provide a phone number, so patients can call back if they have questions or concerns
Ask patients to bring in all their medications and supplements. Encourage patients to tell you about the medicine and how to take it. (Assess what they understand)
Provide a simple summary of instructions for care after leaving the hospital (for example: Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS)).
To prepare for discharge, work with patients and families to draw attention to key information in this written summary and encourage patients to raise questions and concerns. Assess understanding using teach-back (see above).