ATLANTA—Another type of literacy impacts America’s well-being, health literacy. Health literacy means that patients can understand, interpret and adequately use healthcare information they receive from various healthcare professionals. The U.S. health literacy rate stands at a dismal 12 percent. With a direct correlation existing between low health literacy and poor health, healthcare professionals are seeking ways to increase the literacy across all socioeconomic strata, as health literacy affects people at all levels of income, education and age.
Dr. Chip Zimmerman, respiratory therapy clinical associate professor and interprofessional education coordinator, is part of an interdisciplinary team that received a Lewis College grant to develop and implement a health literacy communication program “Teach-Back” for nursing students to practice in clinical simulation. Other team members include Dr. Iris Feinberg, a health literacy expert from the College of Education & Human Development’s Adult Literacy Research Center and Terri Hendry from nursing. Teach-Back works by having patient explain in their own words what the health professional said to them, assuring that the patient fully understands the discharge orders and how to take their medication.
The team is currently testing Teach-Back on RT students in simulation using live patient actors and is collecting data from this early test.
“When I learned about the concept of teach-back from Dr. Feinberg, I was amazed at how such a simple aspect of our everyday interaction with patients could have such a large impact not only on a patient’s ability to understand and make informed decisions regarding their health but also by the effect it could have on patient outcomes and disease maintenance,” said Zimmerman.