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Geisinger Healthcare Literacy Committee

Helping the community make informed health decisions
Whether it’s in a hospital or even in your backyard, life-changing decisions about health are made every minute of every day. 

That’s why finding and understanding health information and services are important to making health decisions that are right for you and your family. Yet research finds that most health information today is too hard to understand.

Without a clear understanding of health information, people are more likely to skip medical tests, have difficulty managing chronic diseases and miss follow-up appointments. 

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12 percent of adults have good health literacy. That means nearly 9 out of 10 adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health.

Patients with low literacy skills have a 50 percent increased risk of hospitalization, compared with patients who had adequate literacy skills.

--Baker, et al, Health Literacy and the Risk of Hospital Admission, J Gen Intern Med., 1998

Geisinger is there

Increasing health literacy awareness
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), health literacy is defined as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions and services needed to prevent or treat illness.”

Making patient education easier
Health literacy is not just about knowing how to read. It’s also about being able to understand instructions on medication bottles, appointment slips or texts, medical brochures, consent forms and finding your way around a large healthcare building.

Our Patient and Family Education/Healthcare Literacy Oversight Committee is made up of doctors, nurses, educators, IT and other members of the healthcare team across our system. The goal? To assess the effectiveness of patient education provided throughout the system and to better understand how patient information is best delivered. In addition, the Committee provides guidance and ensures consistent, reliable patient education materials are produced and delivered, and they incorporate guidelines suggested by the HHS Quick Guide to Health Literacy:

  • Identifying intended users
  • Limiting the number of messages
  • Using plain language
  • Practicing respect
  • Focusing on behavior
  • Checking for understanding
  • Supplementing with pictures
  • Providing appropriate interpreter services for limited English proficient and deaf or hard of hearing patients and families