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:

  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • 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 ...
    read more >>
  • Metaphors, Similes, and Analogies August 1, 2021
    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 among the three forms of speech, for sake of simplicity I’ll use the overall term “metaphor.” Here are some how-to ways ...
    read more >>
  • Helping Patients Problem-Solve July 1, 2021
    The more stories I hear from family and friends about medical mishaps, the more I become convinced that patients need yet another skill–the ability to independently figure out what to do in unexpected or unfamiliar situations. Here are my musings about how professionals can help patients problem-solve. Appreciate that patients will have “oops” moments. Perhaps a ...
    read more >>
  • Respecting Our Readers June 1, 2021
    Here’s my wish. As you choose words and graphics for health-related materials, please consider not only the learning and language needs of your intended audience but also their emotions and life experiences. Several years ago I was leading a plain language workshop for directors of programs for victims of domestic violence. One design strategy I ...
    read more >>