Health Literacy Universal Precautions – Tools for Primary Care Practices

PUBLISHED: Mar 19, 2018
Relevant to: Medical Office

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), only 12 percent of U.S. adults have the health literacy skills needed to manage the demands of our complex health care system, and even these individuals' ability to absorb and use health information can be compromised by stress or illness.

Health literacy universal precautions is a concept that primary care practices can adopt, where it is assumed that all patients may have difficulty comprehending health information and accessing health services. Health literacy universal precautions are aimed at:

  • Simplifying communication along with confirming comprehension for all patients, so that risk of miscommunication is minimized.
  • Making the office environment and health care system easier to navigate.
  • Supporting the patients’ effort to improve their health.

Like with blood safety, "universal precautions" should be taken to address health literacy, because health care providers can't know which patients are challenged by health care information and tasks at any given time.

AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit can help primary care practices reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels. The Toolkit provides evidence-based guidance to adult and pediatric practices to ensure that systems are in place to promote better understanding by all patients, not just those you think need extra assistance. The toolkit is divided into manageable chunks so that its implementation can fit into the busy day of a practice. Areas addressed in the toolkit include:

  • Spoken communication
  • Written communication
  • Self-management and empowerment
  • Supportive systems

Included with today’s notice are example policies that can help primary care practices implement key concepts of health literacy universal precautions.

Also included is a link to AHRQ’s Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit.

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