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Respecting Health Literacy and Language Needs

More than a third of Americans (36%) have low health literacy, which the Health Resources & Services Administration defines as “the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information and services they need to make appropriate health decisions.” Older age, minority membership, and low socioeconomic status are disproportionately correlated with poor functional health literacy in both urban and rural populations.

To be effective, the content provided by a remote care management application must respect patients’ health literacy and satisfy their communication preferences. The National Institutes of Health recommends that healthcare-specific materials be written no higher than a sixth to seventh grade reading level, with supportive visual aids to ensure the meaning is clear.

In addition to health literacy, a lack of fluency in English can substantially impact both the quality and accessibility of care. A multi-year study on healthcare utilization among Hispanic adults found that limited English proficiency functions as a major barrier to care, resulting in the underuse of medical services. More than 13% of the American population speaks Spanish at home, and 8% of the population has limited proficiency in English. Any remote monitoring or digital care management tool should be available in Spanish, as well as other common native languages whenever possible.

How is your organization increasing engagement by understanding and respecting your patient population's health literacy and language needs?

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