Health literacy refers to how well a patient can understand the health information they need to make health decisions. This can be understanding a diagnosis and choosing treatment options, understanding side effects versus benefits of a medication, or knowing the proper dosage to take of a prescription.
Low health literacy is most common among older adults, minority groups, people from a lower socioeconomic background, and people with less access to medical services. It can also result from language barriers between a patient and care providers. Increasing health literacy is in everyone’s best interest, from provider to pharmacist to patient. And CHP wants to move that forward. Here are a few ways you can expand your own health literacy.
One of the biggest roadblocks to health literacy is a lack of general medical knowledge. Having a basic understanding of medical terms and anatomy can help. But you don’t need to take a class to understand the basics.
Anatomy apps let you study the human body from the comfort of your smartphone. And free online courses or podcasts can let you learn as you have time. Remember, you can’t trust everything you see on the internet, so you may want to be careful of your sources. And no online diagnosis wins over an appointment in-person with a medical professional. But learning some on your own can make you more confident in your provider’s office.
It can be hard in the moment to know what questions to ask. But it’s important to remember that your healthcare providers care about you and want to help however they can. As you sit in your appointments, don’t be afraid to speak up with a question.
But if you realize later you forgot to ask something important, write a list and give your provider a call. Or, if you find that some of your questions can wait, just bring the list with you the next time you go in.
Bringing along a friend or family member can be a big help. They might pick up on something you missed or have a question you didn’t realize you should ask. Having someone there as emotional support can make you more relaxed if you tend to feel nervous at medical appointments. It’s also a second set of ears to help you process the information later.
It can be hard to remember everything your provider tells you in your appointment, even if you take notes or have a friend with you. It’s okay to record the audio from your appointments to listen to later. Just ask your provider to make sure they’re aware you’re recording. This can allow you to revisit the specifics or look up terms you’re not familiar with.
Language barriers can impact health literacy too. Ask if a translator can be in the room with you or see if health information in your native language is available. And there may be other resources available to help speakers of languages other than English. CHP has bilingual staff, and forms and info are available in Spanish.
CHP works hard to increase medical literacy for patients while encouraging providers to do the behind-the-scenes work of making healthcare more understandable and accessible to all. If you have questions about your care, please contact your provider or the nearest clinic. Whether in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston, or West Yellowstone, you can find a clinic with a care team that wants to help you understand all aspects of your health.