How-To Tips

Health Literacy

Each month, Helen Osborne posts tips about how to communicate health information more clearly. Here is a listing of some recent HLC (Health Literacy Consulting) How-To Tips:

  • Using Visuals to Teach August 1, 2022
    Maybe you know visual learners like me—people who learn best when watching demonstrations or seeing drawings and photographs. Visuals can go a long way toward helping others understand health care concepts and instructions. Here are some how-to’s: Acquire the artwork you need. There are many ways to acquire needed artwork. You might begin by looking online for ...
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  • Making Numbers Make Sense July 1, 2022
    Health information is filled with numbers. This includes concepts such as quantity, time, and risk. But patients, caregivers, and the lay public often struggle to understand and use such numbers. Here are a dozen (12) ways to help make numbers make sense to others. Quantity: Confirm which measurement system to use, such as ounces or grams. Mark how ...
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  • Creative Ways to Communicate Serious Health Messages June 1, 2022
    Health messages tend to be about serious topics. But must these messages always be communicated in somber (some might say, boring) ways? I think not. Instead, you might consider adding a dose of creativity. Creativity is rooted in the philosophy that people have more capacity to learn when they are engaged and relaxed. It is often ...
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  • Readable Writing Starts with Good Organization May 1, 2022
    Where do you begin when writing documents that readers must understand? In my experience, the best place to start is with organization–matching your information to the interests, abilities, and existing knowledge of the intended audience. Here’s how-to: Assemble a writing team. It takes a team to write a readable document. Team members should include one or more ...
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  • Continuum of Care April 1, 2022
    Health care can happen in many settings, at different times, and with almost infinite pairings of patients, caregivers, and providers. In other words, health care today can happen at all stages of what is commonly referred to as the “continuum of care.” For simplicity’s sake, I divide this continuum into four stages, each with distinct tasks ...
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  • Confirm Understanding: Feedback March 1, 2022
    Just because we say something, just because we write it, just because we know this information is important does not necessarily mean that the person we are communicating with will be able to read, relate to, and follow this information. It is vital that we confirm that messages are truly understood. This month’s How-To-Tip is about using ...
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  • Using Teach-Back to Confirm Understanding February 1, 2022
    It is vital that we as health communicators confirm that our messages are truly understood. Two important ways to do this are with teach-back (for the spoken word) and feedback (for print and web information).  This month’s How-To Tip looks at teach-back. This is a back-and-forth verbal exchange used to assess whether both sides of a ...
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  • How Adults Learn January 1, 2022
    All provider-patient encounters are opportunities for learning and teaching, even when not labeled as such. “Teachers” can be clinicians or anyone else responsible for health instruction. “Students” may be patients, caregivers, or others receiving this information. “Subject matter” refers to topics being taught. Education like this works best when teachers teach in ways that help learners learn. This month’s Tip looks ...
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  • Asking: A Way to Know if Others Understand December 1, 2021
    You spoke about a certain topic. You wrote about it, too. You even drew pictures explaining more. But will your audience understand and relate to the information that you are trying to convey? The best way I know to find out is by asking. Here are examples about how-to: Teach-back, for spoken communication. After talking about a certain ...
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  • Communicating When Naked: Lessons Learned as a Patient November 1, 2021
    Talking about health and other medical matters had always been easy for me. As an occupational therapist and health literacy consultant, I felt confident and in charge of conversations no matter which professional “hat” I was wearing. But after a routine mammogram turned out not to be so routine, I felt more than hatless. I ...
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  • Why Health Literacy Matters October 1, 2021
    Health literacy is at the forefront of many current health initiatives. That’s great, of course. But I sometimes wonder why it’s getting more attention than in years past. Here are my musings about why health literacy matters today:  Patients need to understand health information quickly because they have less direct contact with their providers. This can include ...
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  • Using Stories to Teach About Health September 1, 2021
    Stories are powerful health communication tools. By combining emotions and facts, stories can help people connect with health information in a more personal way. Stories can help people of all ages and cultures find qualities they have in common. Stories not only can be engaging but also are easy for most people to understand—even by those ...
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