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Health Literacy: Health Literacy Skills- Patients

Overview and practical approaches for healthcare providers

Health Literacy Skills

Skills Needed for Health Literacy

Patients are often faced with complex information and treatment decisions. Patients need to:

  • Access health care services
  • Analyze relative risks and benefits
  • Calculate dosages
  • Communicate with health care providers
  • Evaluate information for credibility and quality
  • Interpret test results
  • Locate health information

In order to accomplish these tasks, individuals may need to be:

  • Visually literate (able to understand graphs or other visual information)
  • Computer literate (able to operate a computer)
  • Information literate (able to obtain and apply relevant information)
  • Numerically or computationally literate (able to calculate or reason numerically)

Oral language skills are important as well. Patients need to articulate their health concerns and describe their symptoms accurately. They need to ask pertinent questions, and they need to understand spoken medical advice or treatment directions. In an age of shared responsibility between physician and patient for health care, patients need strong decision-making skills. With the development of the Internet as a source of health information, health literacy may also include the ability to search the Internet and evaluate Web sites.

From the NIH page Health Literacy