October is Health Literacy Month, started by educator and occupational therapist Helen Osborne in 1999 after she saw disparities between the way health information was being delivered and the ability of the average patient to understand that information.

Those with limited health literacy are more likely to skip important tests and appointments, have a harder time living with conditions and navigating the healthcare system, and feel unequipped to make informed health decisions. Health Literacy Month exists to bring awareness to these consequences as well as the different ways providers and patients can take a more health-literate approach to healthcare.

Improving Health Literacy with Telehealth

More than 20 years have passed since Health Literacy Month was established, but health literacy is perhaps more critical than ever to improving patient outcomes and the healthcare industry as a whole. The rise of digital technologies in the healthcare space gives healthcare providers a powerful opportunity to prioritize health literacy when interacting with patients.

Methods through which providers can incorporate easy-to-understand health information and services might include:

Social media

Though the information presented on social media may not be tailored to the individual, social networks are an effective way of delivering health information to a wide audience in plain language and with graphics that make complex topics easy to understand.

Telemedicine platforms

From remote appointments to automated form delivery, telemedicine platforms can simplify communication pathways and make the healthcare system easier to navigate.

Mobile health

Over 80% of the U.S. population owns a smartphone, making mobile health (delivered via apps and messaging) a powerful tool for delivering personalized health information while overcoming many access barriers.

The Impact of Health Literacy

Helen Osborne has said that health literacy is “a shared responsibility between patients and providers. Each must communicate in ways the other can understand.” Modern technology is helping patients and providers achieve this goal by simplifying communication, making it more meaningful, and, as a result, improving the quality of care.

Clear communication

A critical component of health literacy is clear communication between patient and provider, and digital health technologies facilitate these connections. For example, when a patient can communicate with their provider from the comfort of their own home, the communication can be more effective. This helps keep the care patient-centered, which ultimately contributes to better outcomes as providers have a clearer idea of what the patient is experiencing.

Proactive care

Health information technology, such as the use of digital educational programs and interactive online materials, has the potential to further streamline and improve connections between patient and provider. Patients are able to take a deeper dive into their health outside of traditional healthcare spaces. Both patient and provider can focus on filling in knowledge gaps and finding solutions that best fit the patient.

Informed decision making

Individuals cannot achieve their ideal health outcomes without taking control of their health plan. This power lies in health literacy, which equips people with the knowledge to make well-informed health-related decisions. Leveraging technology, healthcare professionals can more easily provide patients with simple educational resources that fit a patient’s learning style and convey health information critical to their individual condition.

Improve Health Literacy with iTether

With our integrated health platform, we’re helping health organizations help their patients through personalized digital care pathways and improved workflows. Healthcare providers can easily and meaningfully connect with patients, educate, and improve lives through innovative digital experiences. Connect with us today and discover how our platform can help you improve health literacy—and outcomes—within your organization.