PennWell Dental Community
Institute of Medicine, Discussion Paper, Cindy Brach, June 19, 2012
A wide range of organizations have recognized that having health literate health care organizations benefits not only the 77 million Americans who have limited health literacy, but also the majority of Americans who have difficulty understanding and using currently available health information and health services. This paper presents 10 attributes that exemplify a health literate health care organization. Each attribute includes a brief elaboration of the meaning of and basis for the attribute, followed by a set of implementation strategies that can be used to achieve the attribute.
Goals for high quality, patient-centered care cannot be achieved if consumers cannot access services or make informed health care decisions. Health care organizations need to reduce the complexity of the health care system and ensure consumers can understand and use information and services to take care of their health. This is particularly urgent for adults with limited health literacy, but the general public will gain as well. Addressing health literacy, which has become recognized as an important component to delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate services, will also benefit diverse populations.
The list of 10 attributes is by no means exhaustive. Rather it is an attempt to synthesize a body of knowledge and practice and to provide a vision of what a health literate health care organization looks like. The paper attempts to launch health care organizations on their long journey to becoming health literate. It outlines the concrete, practical actions health care organizations can immediately take to close the gap between individuals’ health literacy skills and the demands of complex health care systems.