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:

  • How Adults Learn June 1, 2024
    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 May 1, 2024
    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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  • Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Other Healthcare Shorthand April 1, 2024
    Imagine what it’s like to be suddenly injured or ill. You or your family member calls 911. EMTs arrive and take you to the nearest ER or ED. You or someone in your family is given a lot of paperwork, including HIPAA notification. The doctors and nurses say you need an IV, MRI, EKG, and CT scan. And all this before being admitted to the ICU. Now ...
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  • Readable Writing Starts with Good Organization March 1, 2024
    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 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 subject ...
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  • Creative Ways to Communicate Serious Health Messages February 1, 2024
    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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  • Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations January 1, 2024
    As stated on the website for AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), “Health literate healthcare organizations make it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health.” A paper published by members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Health Literacy identified 10 attributes of health ...
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  • Listening & Speaking December 1, 2023
    Health Literacy How-To Just because listening & speaking happens a lot doesn’t mean that this form of communication is always easy or effective. For instance, speaking can be hard when providers are rushed, explain the same concepts over and over again, or assume that patients understand everything being said. For patients, listening can be hard because ...
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  • Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies November 1, 2023
    Metaphors, similes, and analogies are figures of speech used to help people understand unfamiliar words and concepts. They do so by comparing new information to that which people already know. While there are important distinctions between these forms of speech, for sake of simplicity I’ll use the overall term “metaphor.” Here are some how-to ways for ...
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  • How Health Literacy Month Started October 1, 2023
    Health Literacy Month is a time for advocates everywhere to focus on the importance of communicating health information in ways that patients and the public can understand. Celebrated worldwide each October, Health Literacy Month has been going strong since I founded it in 1999. Here’s the behind-the-scenes story about how Health Literacy Month got started. I first ...
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  • Tone: Inviting Readers to Read September 1, 2023
    You have a lot of important health information to share. But will intended readers want to read it? You can help by writing in a way that readers not only find worthy of their time but also feel welcomed. Here’s how-to: Speak directly to the reader, using words such as “you” and “your.” This is much ...
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  • Health Literacy Along the Continuum of Care August 1, 2023
    Health literacy matters along the continuum of care. This includes wellness, access, illness, and self-care. Wherever we work and whatever we do, it is important to consider health literacy at all phases along the continuum of care. Here are some suggestions about ways to help. Wellness. This is about doing what’s needed for people to stay healthy, ...
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  • Confirm Understanding: Feedback July 1, 2023
    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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