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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
AHRQ patient engagement resources for guides and toolkits for hospitals and primary care settings.
This section of TalkingQuality discusses how to turn health care quality data into information that meets the needs of your audience.
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.
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
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 (email@example.com) 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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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.
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 research summaries about the benefits and risks of different treatments for various health conditions.
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.
Resources to help hospitals improve the patient experience.
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.
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."
AHRQ has contributed to the development of several frameworks and models for how healthcare systems can address health literacy.
Health literate healthcare organizations make it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health. The discussion paper, “Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations,” describes what health systems must do to become health literate. Learn about AHRQ tools that can help health systems address the 10 attributes of health literate healthcare organizations here.
Improving health outcomes relies on patients' full engagement in prevention, decision-making, and self-management activities. Health systems that incorporate health literacy strategies into the Care Model (also known as the Chronic Care Model) make it easier for people to understand and act on available health information. The Health Literate Care Model explains how to tackle that integration. For each of the Care Model’s elements, an updated “health-literate” version includes relevant tools from the AHRQ Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit and maximizes the potential for system change. The Health Literate Care Model represents a practical systems framework for organizations that aspire to address all patients’ health literacy challenges comprehensively, synergistically, and proactively.
Find the article, “A Proposed ‘Health Literate Care Model’ Would Constitute A Systems Approach To Improving Patients’ Engagement In Care” here.
Visit an interactive graph of the Health Literate Care Model here.
Navigating the healthcare system is not just a challenge for those who have limited health literacy. Patients are regularly confronted with complicated, confusing forms and instructions. As a result, too many people are hospitalized after being given ambiguous instructions about medications or failing to recognize the symptoms of a worsening condition. A Health Affairs article depicts the costly cycle of “crisis care” and describes how health systems can break the cycle by addressing health literacy.
Access the article “New Federal policy initiatives to boost health literacy can help the Nation move beyond the cycle of costly 'crisis care'” here.
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.
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.
This AHRQ-published volume of government-sponsored patient safety research includes the following articles related to health literacy.
AHRQ researchers have published the following articles related to health literacy in peer-reviewed journals
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.
Quality improvement measures can help healthcare organizations make health information easy to understand and health systems easy to navigate. AHRQ obtained consensus from experts on the usefulness, meaningfulness, feasibility, and face validity of 22 measures that can help organizations seeking to become more health literate.
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.
As a sponsor of the National Academies' Roundtable on Health Literacy, AHRQ supported the production of these papers and workshops:
In addition, an AHRQ researcher led the production of Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations.
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.
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.
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.