Basic literacy skills, language, age, disability, cultural context, and emotional responses can all affect the way people receive and process information — and the way people process information, in turn, has a direct impact on health outcomes and cost.
Improve your health literacy! Here are some easy ways to help build your health literacy and become a better patient and health advocate for yourself.
- Ask questions.
- And make sure you get the answers to those questions. If you don’t understand something, press your health care provider for more information. Ask questions like: Why are you ordering this test? Why are you prescribing this medication? What side effects can it cause? Here are some questions to ask yourself before you go and at the appointment.
- Don’t walk away in the dark.
- Doctor visits are quick and come with a ton of info. After your health care provider gives you directions, repeat those instructions in your own words. This gives you a chance to clarify information and make sure you receive clear communication.
- Be your own pharmacist.
- Bring all your medicines to your next medical visit. Ask your health care provider to review all your over-the-counter and prescription medicines, supplements, vitamins and herbal medicines. You may discover some mistakes, such as two drugs that shouldn’t be taken together.
- Tell the truth.
- It’s not easy to own up to bad health habits like how often you really drink or exercise. But you can’t be diagnosed or treated effectively and properly if you don’t tell the truth. Your health care provider needs accurate info to help you make smart decisions.
- Bring someone with you.
- Taking a friend or relative to an appointment might be an especially good idea when you expect to receive important information or news. The person with you can take notes to help you remember everything later.
- Tell the doctor’s office if you need an interpreter.
- You have a right to an interpreter, at no cost to you. Even if you speak some English, tell the doctor’s office what language you prefer when you make an appointment.
- Ask questions.