Health literacy occurs when health information and services created for the public match with people’s capacity to find, understand, and use them. AHRQ's health literacy resources help health care professionals and delivery organizations make information easier to understand and systems easier to navigate.
- Tools for Health Care Professionals, Delivery Organizations, and Systems
- Professional Education and Training
- Patient Education Resources
- Assessing the Patient Experience
- Health Information Technology
- Tools for Researchers
- Articles, Papers, and Reports
- Podcasts, Blogs and Videos
- Impact Case Studies
- Related Department of Health and Human Services Resources
The AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit, 2nd edition and companion implementation guide help adult and pediatric practices reduce the complexity of health care, increase patient understanding of health information, and enhance support for patients of all health literacy levels. Also available is a crosswalk showing how implementing health literacy tools can help meet standards for patient-centered medical home certification or recognition.
AHRQ Pharmacy Health Literacy Center
Re-Engineered Discharge Toolkit
The Re-Engineered Discharge (RED) Toolkit helps re-design the discharge process, particularly for hospitals that serve diverse populations, to reduce readmissions and post-hospital emergency department visits.
Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital
Based on the RED Toolkit's easy-to-understand discharge plan Taking Care of Myself: A Guide for When I Leave the Hospital, this fillable PDF allows patients to record information they need to remember about appointments and medicines and how to care for themselves when they get home.
AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange
The Innovations Exchange is a searchable repository of innovations and tools to improve quality and reduce disparities. To find innovations and tools related to health literacy select "health literacy" as a search term or browse by subject.
Help Your Patients Engage in Their Health Care
AHRQ patient engagement resources include guides and toolkits for hospitals and primary care settings.
TalkingQuality: Translate Data Into Information
This section of TalkingQuality discusses how to turn health care quality data into information that meets the needs of your audience.
Health Literacy and Patient and Family Engagement: Strategic Tools To Prevent CAUTI
The Health Literacy and Patient and Family Engagement: Strategic Tools To Prevent CAUTI presentation describes the importance of addressing health literacy in preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) and summarizes ways to engage patients and families in CAUTI prevention.
Advancing Pharmacy Health Literacy Practices Through Quality Improvement
These Advancing Pharmacy Health Literacy Practices Through Quality Improvement modules help pharmacy faculty integrate health literacy and health literacy quality improvement into courses, experiential education, and projects for PharmD students and pharmacy residents. Also available is an in-service curriculum: Strategies To Improve Communication Between Pharmacy Staff and Patients: Training Program for Pharmacy Staff
Health Literacy Modules
Pediatricians and family physicians can earn credit for recertification by taking the Health Literacy Knowledge Self-Assessment Module (MOC Part 2) or Improve Health Literacy Performance Improvement Modules (MOC Part 4) through the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians. OptumHealth Education (firstname.lastname@example.org) is issuing continuing education for taking the health literacy modules. Contact Healthliteracy@AHRQ.HHS.gov if you would like to host these modules for MOC or CME/CE credit.
AHRQ's Making Informed Consent an Informed Choice: Training Modules for Health Care Leaders and Professionals
The two AHRQ's Making Informed Consent an Informed Choice: Training Modules for Health Care Leaders and Professionals interactive training modules teach strategies that health care organizations and clinical teams can use to ensure that people understand their alternatives, including the option of not having any treatment. To learn about earning continuing education and continuing medical education via The Joint Commission's learning management system, visit The Joint Commission—Improving the Informed Consent Process in the Hospital Setting.
The SHARE Approach
The SHARE Approach, a train-the-trainer curriculum, supports the training of health care professionals on how to engage patients in their health care decisionmaking. Health literacy tools include: Health Literacy and Shared Decisionmaking: A Reference Guide for Health Care Providers and Communicating Numbers to Your Patients: A Reference Guide for Health Care Providers.
TeamSTEPPS® Limited English Proficiency Module
The TeamSTEPPS® Limited English Proficiency Module train-the-trainer curriculum includes everything you need to train clinicians and interpreters to work as a team. The publication Improving Patient Safety Systems for Patients With Limited English Proficiency: A Guide for Hospitals helps organizations prepare for the TeamSTEPPS limited English proficiency module.
Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool
The Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool is a systematic method to evaluate and compare the understandability and actionability of print and audiovisual patient education materials.
The Center for Advancing Equity in Clinical Preventive Services | Northwestern University
The AHRQ-funded Northwestern Center of Excellence for Clinical Preventive Services developed and tested interventions and patient education materials to reduce disparities in clinical preventive services by focusing on health literacy, health communication, quality improvement methods, and health information technology.
Effective Health Care Program
AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program includes patient decision aids that help patients consider both the research evidence and what is important to them when talking with their clinician about treatment options. Also available are free research summaries about the benefits and risks of different treatments for various health conditions.
Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Items Sets for Addressing Health Literacy
AHRQ has produced three Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) health literacy item sets to assess health care providers' activities to foster and improve the health literacy of patients and give providers information that can help them improve their health literacy practices. Survey items are available for clinician/groups, hospitals, and health plan in English and Spanish. Learn about using HCAHPS results and how to calculate composite measures in About the CAHPS® Health Literacy Item Set for Hospitals.
CAHPS® Cultural Competence
The CAHPS Cultural Competence Item Set is a supplement to the Clinician/Group CAHPS designed to capture the patient's perspective on the cultural competence of health care providers. Learn about using the survey results and how to calculate composite measures in About the CAHPS® Cultural Competence Item Set. Items on interpreter services are also available for Adult Hospital CAHPS.
Improve Patients' Experiences
Resources to help hospitals improve the patient experience.
Accessible Health Information Technology (IT) for Populations with Limited Literacy: A Guide for Developers and Purchasers of Health IT
The Accessible Health Information Technology (IT) for Populations with Limited Literacy: A Guide for Developers and Purchasers of Health IT guide and checklist help developers and purchasers ensure that the health IT they create and implement is easy to use by populations with limited literacy. An evaluation of the guide is also available.
Health Information Technology Initiative
AHRQ has funded many grants that have resulted in publications related to health literacy. Search the AHRQ health IT portfolio using keywords such as "literacy" and "communication."
Informed Consent and Authorization Toolkit for Minimal Risk Research
The Informed Consent and Authorization Toolkit for Minimal Risk Research toolkit helps both researchers and institutional review boards ensure that potential subjects can make well-informed decisions about participating in research studies.
Health Literacy Measurement Tools
AHRQ-funded researchers have developed four tools to measure an aspect of health literacy—individuals' reading comprehension in a medical context—to detect health literacy disparities and examine interventions’ effects on populations with limited health literacy.
AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) collects data for three Healthy People 2020 health literacy measures. Researchers can conduct their own analyses of the data, which comes from the MEPS' household component's Self-Administered Questionnaire (SAQ) that has been collected annually since 2011 and is part of the MEPS Full Year Consolidated File. Researchers can download the file from the MEPS Download Data page.
Advances in Patient Safety
This AHRQ-published volume of government-sponsored patient safety research includes the following articles related to health literacy.
- Language, Literacy, and Communication Regarding Medication in an Anticoagulation Clinic: Are Pictures Better Than Words?
- Preventing Medication Errors in Ambulatory Care: The Importance of Establishing Regimen Concordance
- Speaking Plainly: Communicating the Patient's Role in Health Care Safety
Peer-Reviewed Articles, Book Chapters, and Reports
AHRQ researchers have published the following articles related to health literacy in peer-reviewed journals
- Health Literacy Universal Precautions Are Still a Distant Dream: Analysis of U.S. Data on Health Literate Practices
- The Journey to Become a Health Literate Organization: A Snapshot of Health System Improvement
- How Hospitals Reengineer Their Discharge Processes to Reduce Readmissions (winner of 2015 Journal for Healthcare Quality Impact Article of the Year award)
- A daughter's frustration with the dearth of patient- and family-centered care
- Crossing the language chasm
- Even in an emergency, doctors must make informed consent an informed choice
- New federal policy initiatives to boost health literacy can help the nation move beyond the cycle of costly 'crisis care'
- Physicians' roles in creating health literate organizations: a call to action
- A proposed 'health literate care model' would constitute a systems approach to improving patients’ engagement in care (Also see interactive graphic of the Health Literate Care Model.)
- Chapter 5: Improving Patient Education With EHRs (in Health Information Technology in the United States: Better Information Systems for Better Care, 2013)
- Integrating Health Literacy into Patient Safety Partnerships (in Engaging Patients as Safety Partners: A Guide for Reducing Errors and Improving Satisfaction)
- Integrating literacy, culture, and language to improve health care quality for diverse populations
America's Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information
This brief America’s Health Literacy: Why We Need Accessible Health Information, co-authored by researchers from AHRQ and the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, summarizes key findings and presents some policy implications of health literacy data from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
Health Literacy Interventions and Outcomes: A Systematic Review
The report Health Literacy Interventions and Outcomes: A Systematic Review is an update of a 2004 systematic review of research on health care service use and health outcomes related to differences in health literacy level and interventions designed to improve these outcomes for individuals with low health literacy.
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy
As a sponsor of the National Academies' Roundtable on Health Literacy, AHRQ supported the production of these papers and workshops:
- Primary Care Implementation of After-Visit Summaries for Patients with Limited Health Literacy
- Measures to Assess and Health Literate Organization
- Health Literacy and Palliative Care (Health Literacy and Palliative Care: Workshop Summary)
- Implementation of Attributes of Health Literacy: A Workshop (Organizational Change to Improve Health Literacy - Workshop Summary)
In addition, an AHRQ researcher led the production of Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations.
National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Reports
The National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Reports measure trends in effectiveness of care, patient safety, timeliness of care, patient centeredness, and efficiency of care, including the quality of provider-patient communication.
Project Research Online Database
The Project Research Online Database is a searchable database of more than 4,000 AHRQ-funded projects and more than 300 working papers authored by AHRQ grantees. Use keywords to search for projects related to health literacy.
- After Visit Summaries
- Attributes of Health Literate Organizations
- CAHPS Health Literacy Item Set: An Interview with Dr. Carolyn Clancy
- Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for HHS, Talks About Boosting Health Literacy To Move Beyond the Cycle of Costly Crisis Care
- Even in an Emergency, Doctors Must Make Informed Consent an Informed Choice
- Health Literacy Video Archive Project: Documenting Pioneers and Champions Featuring Cindy Brach
- Help Patients Make Tough Decisions
- The Imperative for Learning Health Systems to Address Health Literacy
- Improving Doctor-Patient Communication in a Digital World
- PEMAT: Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool
- Tackling Low Health Literacy Among Primary Care Patients: A Model From Missouri
AHRQ's Impact Case Studies describe the use and impact of AHRQ-funded tools by State and Federal policymakers, health systems, clinicians, academicians, and other professionals. Choose the topic "health literacy" to find case studies.
- Clear Communication (National Institutes of Health)
- Health Literacy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Health Literacy and Communication (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
- Health Literacy (Health Resources and Services Administration)
- MedlinePlus Easy-to-Read (National Library of Medicine)
- MedlinePlus Health Information in Multiple Languages
- Plain Language: Getting Started or Brushing Up (National Institutes of Health)
- Risk Communication (Food and Drug Administration)
- Think Cultural Health (Office of Minority Health)
- Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services)
Page originally created March 2017