Magnet Nursing

Health Literacy

Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions and follow instructions for treatment.  Health information can be difficult to understand if individuals do not have a health care background because of the terminology and abbreviations often used.  It’s not unusual for health information to be written at or above the 10th-grade reading level, yet many American adults read at or below the 8th-grade reading level.

Ask Me 3™ is a patient education program designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes.  Ask Me 3™ promotes three simple, but essential, questions and answers for every health care interaction:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?  
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

One example of utilizing Ask Me 3™ involved Aspirus nurses working to improve the readability of Day Surgery Discharge Instructions by integrating Ask Me 3™ into the Day Surgery discharge instruction forms to help patients better understand the information.

Additional Health Literacy Initiatives

  • “Teach Back” is a health literacy process that helps the clinician check the patients’ understanding as well as the clinician’s teaching and communication skills. Several videos have been created to illustrate Teach Back techniques to health care professionals.  A Diabetes Teach Back video was created in 2012, and a Teach Back video on Discharge Medications was created in 2013.  Both videos are available to Aspirus Wausau Hospital staff as teaching tools via the Medical Library website.
  • The Health Literacy Ambassadors program was formed with volunteers, including clinical and laypeople in the community, to provide feedback on various patient education materials.  The ambassadors were selected from a variety of backgrounds and age groups to ensure widespread readability of the educational documents reviewed. Utilizing their input, documents which have been rewritten to the appropriate reading level include DNR status, Advance Directive information, and various patient education materials.
  • A one-hour presentation entitled “Health Literacy: what is it? How it affects everyone” was created. This presentation has been tailored to the needs of the audience and has been given approximately 80 times at the hospital and throughout different locations in Wisconsin.
  • A Health Literacy website, accessed through the Medical Library website, was created for easy access to health literacy information.

Future Goals

  • Increasing the awareness of the impact of literacy and health literacy on health outcomes
  • Increasing effective communication so that individuals, organizations, and communities can access, understand, share, and act on health information and services