There’s a gap in the healthcare industry that goes beyond money and underserved locations. Whether it’s doctors not having enough time to communicate with patients or patients not concerning or miseducating themselves with the subject matter, the shortfall in personal health literacy is a troubling issue. Why? Doctors who don’t attempt to bridge this gap may order unnecessary tests, have higher readmission rates, and misdiagnose patients altogether. Furthermore, patients who have higher health literacy rates tend to be healthier overall. So, how can this chasm be shrunk to a more palatable scenario? We’ll take a look at four ways to increase health literacy.
What is health literacy?
The best place to begin is with a simple definition. The CDC describes personal health literacy as “the degree to which individuals can find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.” What can doctors do to help patients empower themselves?
Use plain language
When conveying information to your patients, remember that many don’t work in the healthcare field. Technical jargon may confuse and intimidate your patients. Attempt to find the simplest way to communicate your point. Also, begin with the most important facts first and work your back. Use an active voice to be concise. When you cut down on technical terminology, prioritize your points and speak straightforwardly, your patients will have a better chance to leave your office informed.
Avoid closed-ended questions
Closed-ended questions are aptly named because they lead to a dead end. For clarification, a closed-ended question has one of two simple answers. “Yes” or No.” If you want more of the story, try utilizing open-ended questions. How? Try using the power of “what.” Start your questions with “what,” and you’ll receive more informative answers in return. For example: “What brings you to the office today?” will garner a more helpful response than “So you’re not feeling well?”
Research and recommend mobile apps
Knowledge is power, and thanks to modern mobile technology, learning can take place anywhere. There are a plethora of health-related apps that can provide your patients with reputable and timely information. A few examples of these extremely useful, and even sometimes fun, apps include the following.
CDC Health IQ: This trivia-based game tests your health knowledge in an entertaining format.
WebMD App: A good app for the facts. Patients can research symptoms, conditions, and drug information.
Mayo Clinic App: The Mayo Clinic App features an appointment maker and delivers timely news and practical health advice.
There are many other great choices for health information in both app stores, but before recommending, it’s advisable to have firsthand experience using the functions.
Go beyond the bland, black, and white words and implement graphics and other visuals. The use of images helps learners retain information longer, conveys more efficient communication, and provides a vehicle for better comprehension. And think about it, is there any other information more important to understand and retain than health-related facts?
Hopefully, the gap in health literacy will continue to disappear as more valuable tools and methods are implemented to educate the public. With dedication and great doctors like you, it’s a good bet.
Do you want more time to communicate the importance of health information to your patients? Contact us to see how we can help take some of your health center’s work off your plate. More time is always a good thing.
The modern fitness wearable had humble beginnings. Around a decade ago, they were more pedometer than they were health monitoring system. But times have changed. The new lineup of these convenient devices can do everything from monitor your heart rate to taking your blood pressure to even performing an ECG. Oh, and they still track how many steps you take too. We will take a closer look at six of these next-generation wearables and how they can benefit consumers and even assist in remote doctor care.
Fitness and health
Price: Starts at $399
One of the undoubted leaders in wearable technology is Apple. And the Apple Watch Series 6 continues that tradition. The latest version of Apple’s line of smartwatches has features you’d expect. Such as a sharp always-on retina display, GPS to track your runs, and a swim-proof design that allows you to log your laps. However, it’s the newer features that have made those pedometer days seem light-years away. You can now check your heart rhythm and measure your blood oxygen levels. The latter has come in handy during the pandemic—a perfect wearable for remote care or just personal use. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a five-star Amazon review with over 32,000 ratings.
The Fitbit Charge 4 is a good choice for those looking for tracking on a budget. For approximately $100, the newest Fitbit Charge has a built-in GPS, oxygen saturation monitoring, and even a skin temperature sensor. One of the additional benefits of the Fitbit Charge 4 is a menstrual health tracking option. That along with the Fitbit app can record symptoms and the timing of your cycle.
Garmin has a more fitness-focused product, but that doesn’t mean it’s not packed with features. Like the previously mentioned Apple Watch Series 6 and Fitbit Charge 4, the Vivocactive 4 has a Pulse Ox sensor and heart rate monitor. However, this rugged watch is designed with the outdoor athlete in mind and is an excellent choice for those who hit the trail to improve their health rather than taking a heart rhythm reading.
AliveCor’s KardiaMobile device isn’t a nifty watch that lets you know how much further you need to run to reach this week’s goal. It has one purpose, to take an instant EKG. Touted as the “world’s most clinically validated EKG,” KardiaMobile is an easy-to-use option when you need to assess your heart’s health. Within 30 seconds, an EKG reading can be taken and sent to a physician– from anywhere in the world.
In 2018 alone, nearly 500,000 people lost their lives in the United States due to high blood pressure (CDC). Preventing these deaths is the inspiration behind the Omron HeartGuide. So, you probably guessed it, the HeartGuide’s claim to wearable fame is its ability to measure blood pressure accurately. Although, unlike the KardiaMobile, the HeartGuide does a bit more than provide you with a medical benefit. This handy watch can also track your fitness and monitor your sleep.
The Owlet Smart Sock isn’t a monitor targeted to athletes, the heart-health conscious, or those who want a better night of sleep before work. It’s all about your baby. Taking baby monitoring to a new level, the Smack Sock tracks your baby’s oxygen levels, heart rate, and sleep trends. The Smart Sock features a 16-hour battery life and fits babies up to 18-months old.
Wearable technology won’t be completely replacing in-person doctor visits for certain issues anytime soon. But these handy devices give a solid snapshot of the wearer’s health and can ultimately save lives. Oh, and most of them still track your steps.