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Health Literacy

Health Literacy


Each person that enters our hospitals or facilities has very unique needs. As you progress through our continuum of care, it is important for us to be able to identify and address not only your medical needs but also your unique personal characteristics.

Your personal characteristics can affect how you view, receive, participate and follow through on your health care treatment.

We strive to meet your unique needs in an effort to continually improve the overall safety and quality of health care provided at all of our hospitals and facilities.

What Is Health Literacy?

According to the Institute of Medicine health literacy is "The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."

These are skills that you will need to find your way to the right place in a hospital, fill out medical and insurance forms, and communicate with healthcare providers.

Why Are Health Literacy Skills Important?

Only 12% of adults have proficient health literacy, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. In other words, nearly nine out of ten adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease. Health literacy can affect anyone regardless of race, age, religion or education level.

By addressing each patient’s communication needs during the continuum of care, we can help you:

  • Fill out complex forms
  • Locate providers and services
  • Share your health history and other personal information with health providers
  • Take care of yourself
  • Manage a chronic disease
  • Understand how to take medicines

To enhance effective patient-provider communication our professionals strive to:

  • Identify patient cultural, religious or spiritual beliefs and practices that influence care
  • Address patient communication needs during treatment
  • Tailor our communication methods to meet your needs
  • Monitor changes in your communication status
  • Share communication information about unique patient needs to the health care team

Along our journey to improve patient provider communication and enhance our partnership with you, the following communication methods may be used.

Plain Language

North Shore-LIJ employees strive to use plain language in each conversation. Plain language is sometimes called living room language because it’s how you would speak if you were sitting in your home and having a conversation with someone. It is using "everyday words" without medical jargon.

If you do not understand a term being used, we encourage you to “Speak Up” and ask for an explanation.

The Teach-Back Method

It’s important that we are certain we have explained instructions to you in a clear and concise manner.

When using the "teach-back" method, a medical professional may state "I want to be sure I was clear in my explanation. Can you tell me how you would explain to your (spouse, father, sister, mother, brother, etc.) what I just reviewed with you?" If you can’t explain clearly (“teach back”) what you were told, then it’s important that we re-teach the information using different terms and analogies, or use a different approach.

Shame-Free Environment

We make every effort to create an environment in our facilities where patients and family members are comfortable and encouraged to ask for help with difficult forms and information. Our doctors and nurses may ask “What questions do you have?" to encourage communication and then allow time to listen.

By using communication methods that consider and adapt to your individual needs, North Shore-LIJ provides a safe, comfortable environment for patients and visitors.



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