Healthcare Literacy and the Patient Portal: Explore Hands-On Video Resources to Increase User Confidence (Part 2)

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By Doreen DeGroff | Jul 1, 2022

3 minute read Technology| EHR/EMR| Blog

According to The National Assessment of Adult Health Literacy report, only 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy skills. Adults who lack such skills may struggle to understand instructions on drug labels, navigate healthcare services and locations, especially considering that new healthcare “locations” are digital via apps and the patient portal. 

Healthy People 2030 takes the definition of health literacy a bit farther by distinguishing between personal health literacy and organizational health literacy. The new definition expands the scope of health literacy to include the health of communities and the responsibility of organizations to empower patients and community members to use the health information they are given to make better decisions and take action with their healthcare.  

Empathy could be a great first step 

Imagine walking through the healthcare decision making process in the shoes of an individual who struggles with health literacy and trying to interpret verbal instructions, patient education materials, and technology platforms like patient portals. Perhaps an initial step for healthcare organizations and communities could be to evaluate patient touchpoints with healthcare literacy in mind. 

  • Look for behaviors that could indicate low health literacy. Does an individual frequently miss appointments? Are they unable to explain medications and their purpose? Do they ask questions? If an individual has difficulty repeating back medication instructions or rarely asks questions, awareness of these behaviors as potential signs for lower health literacy could begin to bridge the gap for patients and providers. 
  • Use living room language or plain language in patient communications. Communicate with familiar words so that patients can understand healthcare information the first time they hear or read it. Approximately 75% of patient education materials are written at the high school or college level and 40% of patients with low functional literacy admit feeling shame over their reading level. Consider reviewing patient education materials and communications with the perspective of possible low health literacy and look for ways to simplify them. 

Customize your patient portal with health literacy in mind  

In a recent webinar on health literacy and the patient portal, we demonstrated several features in the MEDITECH Patient Portal that you can configure to meet the needs of your patient population. Here are a few examples, but you can watch the recording of the webinar for specifics. 

  • Enrollment email. The MEDITECH Patient Portal comes with pre-loaded content. However, you can review the enrollment email that introduces a patient to the portal and make the font larger, simplify the language as much as possible, or embed a temporary login and password into the hyperlink for easy first access. 
  • Enrollment options. See how to send and re-send enrollment information to a patient upon request. You will want to consider which enrollment fields should be required. For example, most patients won’t know their medical record number and requiring that information could be a source of frustration for self-enrollment. 
  • Customized messages. With the Cures Act, patients may be able to access test results before their provider has been able to discuss those specific results with them. To help patients understand this situation and prevent miscommunication, you could add a message to the Results screen.  

The Appointments page is another example where a customized message could help make sure patients don’t waste a trip to an appointment that was pending through online scheduling but not confirmed.  

  • Empower the patient during setup and administration. Not only can customized messaging help but other patient portal administration decisions can, too, such as only offering appropriate appointments for patients to self-schedule* or helping them understand portal user types** such a proxy versus a shared user.  

Learn more: Videos and resources 

Webinar resources. There is much to learn on the topic of health literacy and patient portals, and we shared the following resources in the webinar: 

Video demonstrations. Also, subscribe to our MEDITECH Resource Library to access how-to videos for steps on configuring user types and scheduling. Two newly added videos include:

Play button blog Healthcare Literacy and Patient Portal: Scheduling video.

See how scheduling settings affect the patient experience in MEDITECH Expanse. 

Play button blogHealthcare Literacy and the Patient Portal: User Types video.

Learn how to increase confidence in using the portal by setting up the correct access types. 

Healthcare literacy assessment. We have developed two assessments to help you begin evaluating your facility, community and patient portal, and this article kicks off the series on health literacy and the patient portal and how to get started on a strategy to improve health literacy for your patients and community. 

About the Author:
Doreen DeGroff

MEDITECH Senior Product Director, CereCore

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