Dr. Johnsen on strategies to improve patient health literacy

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“How we set up patients for success comes not just in our individual clinical encounters, but also how we approach patient care as an organization,” says Niels V. Johnsen, MD, MPH.

In this video, Niels V. Johnsen, MD, MPH, recaps a session at the 24th Annual Fall Scientific Meeting of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America titled, “Health Literacy in Urologic Prosthetics.” Johnsen is an assistant professor of urology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Video Transcript:

When we think about health literacy, we have to think about it both on a personalized level or patient level, and then also on an organizational level. When we say organizational level, I'm thinking primarily in terms of health care institutions, clinics, urology offices. How we set up patients for success comes not just in our individual clinical encounters, but also how we approach patient care as an organization. On an individual level, we talked about videos today. Patients find videos and diagrams and drawings very beneficial, especially some of the lower health literacy patients. Trying to do things to assess where people are on a health literacy scale is important. That doesn't necessarily mean you need to screen everybody as they're coming in to get a score that tells us what their health literacy level is, although some people might find that valuable. But using these teach back techniques where we think we're explaining something to a patient, we think that they understand, but having them explain it back to you in their own words, and then working through that are things that are incredibly valuable.

On an organizational level, taking steps to make sure that you are appropriately making your content and making your clinical care accessible to people across the spectrum of health literacy levels is very important. We touched on a bunch of things that's involved in that from making paperwork more accessible, providing online resources that are reliable and reputable to patients, to doing things like educating your clinic staff. Educating the nurses, educating physicians that people come to and experience health care from different levels of understanding, and we need to tailor our approach in a more personalized medicine setting to make sure that people are getting informed appropriately.

This transcription has been edited for clarity.

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