Using Digital Methods to Increase Health Literacy

by Lydia Pineault

July 25, 2019

What is Health Literacy & Why do We Care?

Health Literacy is defined as the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information in order to make appropriate health decisions. The National Assessment of Literacy estimates that only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy. Low literacy has been linked to negative health outcomes such as increased hospitalization and less use of preventative healthcare services.

In this current age of healthcare where increasing costs are weighing heavily on the system, it is more important than ever to improve the health literacy of the population. The more that people can understand basic health information, the more active of a role they will play in their healthcare. Engaged patients tend to be healthier patients and therefore less expensive patients.

The question then is this,

How can providers work to improve the health literacy of their patients?

We believe the answer lies in technology.

The current method of sending patients home with a stack of papers to read through is inefficient and ineffective. We know that adults spend on average 11 hours a day on either their phone or computer. Why are we not reaching them where they already are? Technology is the medium for engagement in this digital era and healthcare needs to jump on board.

Tapping into technology allows patients to receive the information they need in a setting they feel comfortable in. They can read through their care plan while sitting on the couch with family members, potentially even engaging these family members in the learning process. It also creates a unique opportunity to make the information more interactive. Phone apps can revolutionize how people receive health information. Rather than passively reading the information they can learn it through interactive games and quizzes. Badges and awards can be used to reinforce continued engagement. AI can be employed to customize the program to each individuals needs and learning style.

Content Conundrum

The issue arises that developing evidence-based content in a digital format can be time-consuming and expensive. This creates a large barrier to digital curriculum adoption. Luckily, there are companies such as Healthwise and the Mayo Clinic that specialize in creating engaging content that delivers up to date, evidence-based information. Some healthcare apps have partnered with companies such as these to eliminate the need for providers to independently create digital content. By engaging with a technology company that has access to curriculum, providers can kill two birds with one stone. They will receive both an engagement platform and the necessary content through one vendor.

With over 80% of Americans owning some kind of Smart Phone the time is now to start reaching people through these devices. By striving to increase the health literacy of the population, especially those managing chronic conditions, providers can improve the outcomes of their patients while reducing overall cost to both the patient and the care system.

To learn more about how iTether Technologies is working to provide our clients with evidence-based curriculum for their populations please email engage@itethertech.com or sign up for our newsletter below!

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