How Health IT Can Promote Patient Literacy

For the purposes of this post, we consider literacy to be the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions , and Health IT to be any solution including consumer, wellness, dedicated medical and healthcare solutions and many in between.

Here are a few recent successful examples of IT being used to increase patient involvement and literacy:

  • Pilot Program Finds Texting Can Prompt Medicaid Patients To Get Care. For the pilot, researchers at HealthCrowd (a text message and patient engagement platform) worked with 900+ patients in New York’s Healthfirst Medicaid managed care program over two-and-a-half months. During the pilot, the Medicaid beneficiaries were contacted with messages about:
    • Prenatal care;
    • Wellness visits for children; and/or
    • Vaccinations
  • Reported Outcomes:
    • 32% of beneficiaries who were sent text messages as part of the pilot took at least one of the suggested actions, and those who responded to text messages were more likely to take action. HealthCrowd predicted that 86% of beneficiaries would have taken action if the program had worked with patients for a year.
  • Texting Valuable for Engaging Low-Income Urban Patients. In Detroit, a pilot study among low-income African Americans suggests they may prefer being contacted by healthcare providers and researchers by text message on their mobile phones. The 20 participants were asked hypothetical questions related to their health to evaluate how they would respond to leading reasons for urgent outpatient visits and also common primary care worries. Example questions included what they’d do if they needed a flu shot in order to start a new job, had a multi-day-old rash on their leg, or fell down the stairs and thought they’d broken a leg. On average, the response rate was 72 percent.
  • Reported Outcomes:
    • Answers helped researchers understand the health needs of this community. For example, one question asked people how they would respond if they couldn’t move their right arm and suddenly couldn’t speak. Several participants didn’t realize those were signs of a stroke, answering that they would likely wait it out. The findings prompted local initiatives to better educate this community on telling stroke warnings.
    • Tammy Chang, M.D. and lead author said “We found that texting is not only acceptable and feasible but is the preferred method of collecting real-time information from low-income community members. Most importantly, texting may offer an efficient, inexpensive way to give a voice to people who aren’t often heard and whose needs aren’t always met.”
    • Study:
  • Cullman Regional Medical Center Utilizes Video to Reinforce Discharge Instruction Materials. Primarily looking to reduce 30 day readmission rates, Cullman implemented Good to Go, a program that records discharge and other education materials. The discharge nurse uses the same discharge process as before; however now during the demonstration and instruction with patients the nurse takes an iPod Touch and records the information. After the patient is home, she (or caregivers) can easily replay the information to clarify any missing pieces. The patients/caregivers can also listen to the entire discharge encounter by calling a toll free number or via a secure website.
  • Reported Outcomes:
    • 15% decline in readmission rates for patients who received recorded discharge instructions
    • 63% increase in patient satisfaction HCAHPS scores
    • Program expansion to other units, and Cullman is spreading the word with nursing homes and post-acute facilities in their community

There are many newer technologies, such as, the use of video and mobile apps which can enhance patient literacy. The more patients understand about their conditions, the more likely they are to take an active role in their care and ultimately improve their outcomes. Providers must expand their use of available technologies which are both condition-specific but also patient-centered.

Please share your examples of how health IT is promoting and supporting Patient Literacy.

Additional Reading: