Novant Health Uses AHRQ Tool to Assess and Improve Patient Communications
Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Novant Health, the nation's fifth largest medical group, used AHRQ's Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) to rework its patient education materials and forms to improve the organization's health literacy. The tool is a systematic method to evaluate whether patient education materials are understood and can be put to use.
"PEMAT is an invaluable evidence-based tool that Novant Health continues to use to modify and update nearly all of its patient education materials," said Christie White, M.S.N., R.N.-B.C., director of patient communications. Novant Health, a not-for-profit system, has 15 medical centers and 1,123 doctors in 343 clinics in Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.
In 2015, Novant Health began assessing its approximately 1,000 patient-focused health education materials and 5,500 forms. Novant also uses the PEMAT to confirm the effectiveness of its videos and expects to complete its assessment of all its education materials—including written, video, and graphics—in 2016.
"Our number one goal is to make it extremely easy for the patient," noted Marci Leonard, supervisor of corporate patient information. "Increasing patient literacy is key to lowering readmissions and providing better care."
The PEMAT produces separate numeric scores so that health care providers and others can gauge whether consumers can understand patient-focused materials and take action. "PEMAT is the greatest tool I've seen to give users a scientific base," Ms. Leonard added.
The tool addresses various degrees of health literacy by taking into consideration patients' understanding of the material and how likely they will be to use the information.
"These are important considerations when delivering education to a diverse and often complex patient population. When used within the constructs of population health and in the acute care setting, our PEMAT-formulated patient education optimizes patient safety and patient satisfaction," said Ms. White.
In addition to giving objective feedback on whether materials are easy to understand and easy for patients to act on, PEMAT "makes the conversation with the experts go much smoother," added Ms. Leonard, who explained that it is not easy to tell clinical experts that the information they document for patients may not necessarily be understandable for patients. "Very few tools go into the action and engagement side."
In recent years, Novant Health also has implemented AHRQ's Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit throughout its organization. More than a third of U.S. adults have limited health literacy, which interferes with their ability to take care of their health.
"The Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit and PEMAT are excellent resources that, when used together, have tremendous opportunity to increase patient awareness and engagement," Ms. White noted.