Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Health literacy focuses on empowering patients to engage in their care

Medical personnel, wearing a mask, inserting an IV into a patient Michelle Pribble, Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) lead nuclear medicine technologist, administers an IV to a patient before a positron emission tomography (PET) scan in the hospital's Nuclear Medicine Department. Active communication between patient and provider is a cornerstone of health literacy. (Photo by Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham.)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

Helping patients and caregivers understand the information they receive from their health care team reduces potential miscommunication and can improve the patient care experience. Although October is officially Health Literacy Month, it's always important to make sure patients and their caregivers understand health care information so they can make informed decisions about their care.

A common misconception is that health literacy is only the patient’s or caregiver’s responsibility. It’s not, explained Julie Kinn, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist with the Defense Health Agency’s Connected Health Branch.

“It’s incumbent on the health care team to double-check that patients and their caregivers understand instructions, terminology, and important factors to help with decision-making,” she said.

Health literacy is the ability to understand health care information.

Care teams give a lot of information to patients and their caregivers, but if it’s difficult to understand, then it’s just wasting time for the beneficiaries and their providers, added Kinn. Health literacy covers how heath care teams share information with patients and their families, including instructions for how and when to take medication and how to manage symptoms. Implications can be far-reaching when patients or their families don’t understand their medical care, or when they seek preventive care, attempt to adopt healthy behaviors, complete insurance and medical forms, or manage chronic conditions, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration.  

“In more extreme examples, consider serious health care decisions,” said Kinn. “How can our patients and their families decide between options if the options are presented in a confusing way?”

In today’s busy health care environment, some providers may feel pressed for time, but patient-centered care requires health care professionals to take a more thoughtful approach. “Although internally we may feel a clock ticking, it’s important to demonstrate to patients and their families that we have time to answer their questions,” Kinn said.

Given what’s at stake, patients should not feel shy about understanding their own health care.

“Be assertive and take notes,” she said. “Although your health care team may be rushed, please ask when something is confusing or if a word is unfamiliar.”

Bottom line: All patients should feel empowered to take the time they need, in order to ensure they have the information to understand medical instructions given by their care team, and make informed decisions.

For patients willing to take the initiative to empower themselves with medical knowledge or information on their health, Kinn urges them to ask their doctor or nurse for specific recommendations on websites or resources instead of just searching online. “The Military Health System provides comprehensive information, but there are many other great resources online. Just make sure that it’s a trustworthy source written by experts,” she added.

“You are worth it!” Kinn emphasized.

You also may be interested in...

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 07 - July 2021

Report
7/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Long-acting reversible contraceptive use, active component service women, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020; Oral cavity and pharynx cancers, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2007–2019; The evolution of military health surveillance reporting: a historical review.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Army’s 773rd administers mobile COVID-19 testing during DEF21

Article
6/4/2021
Three military personnel, wearing masks and lab coats, pose for a picture in an Albanian lab.

Approximately 800 Army Reserve soldiers from the U.S. and Europe participated in DEFENDER-Europe 21.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Readiness Capabilities

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 06 - June 2021

Report
6/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: The cost of lower extremity fractures among active duty U.S. Army soldiers, 2017; Early identification of SARS-CoV-2 emergence in the Department of Defense via retrospective analysis of 2019–2020 upper respiratory illness samples; Brief report: Medical encounters for snakebite envenomation, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020; Department of Defense mid-season vaccine effectiveness estimates for the 2019–2020 influenza season.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MHS Minute May 2021

Video
5/28/2021
Image of MHS Minute Carousel

In this month's MHS Minute, the DHA's commitment to transforming military health continues. The DHA officially established the Tidewater market in SE Virginia, serving over 200,000 patients. The MHS is standing up 19 markets like Tidewater to allow healthcare providers to better meet the needs of their patients by improving coordination between facilities in the area.

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Transformation | MHS GENESIS | Health Readiness | MHS GENESIS

ADVISOR brings support to medical personnel in austere environments

Article
5/27/2021
Photo of Michael Kile, LPN, the operational readiness program manger

The Military Health System offers the Advanced Virtual Support for Operational Forces program, or ADVISOR, for remote military medical professionals.

Recommended Content:

Technology | Combat Support | Health Readiness

Signs and symptoms of a stroke, and what to do about them

Article
5/18/2021
Infographic about the sign of a stroke

For Stroke Awareness Month, we highlight some of the most important facts about strokes in men and women.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Traumatic Brain Injury

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 05 - May 2021

Report
5/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Hospitalizations, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Ambulatory visits, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens, reserve component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Surveillance snapshot: Illness and injury burdens, recruit trainees, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Medical evacuations out of the U.S. Central Command, active and reserve components, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, deployed active and reserve component service members, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Absolute and relative morbidity burdens attributable to various illnesses and injuries, non-service member beneficiaries of the Military Health System, 2020.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 04 - April 2021

Report
4/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Disparities in COVID-19 vaccine initiation and completion among active component service members and healthcare personnel, 11 December 2020–12 March 2021; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2005–2020; Skin and soft tissue infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2016–September 2020.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

METC trains dietician techs to build, support a Medically Ready Force

Article
3/18/2021
Military health personnel preparing food trays while wearing a face mask

Nutrition plays an important role in military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Health Readiness

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 03 - March 2021

Report
3/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Influenza surveillance trends and influenza vaccine effectiveness among Department of Defense beneficiaries during the 2019–2020 influenza season; Influenza outbreak during Exercise Talisman Sabre, Queensland, Australia, July 2019; Update: Sexually transmitted infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2012–2020; A retrospective cohort study of blood lead levels among special operations forces soldiers exposed to lead at a firing range in Germany.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Army hospital powers through record-breaking winter storms

Article
2/22/2021
A military medical center covered in snow

BAMC comes away from major winter storm unscathed.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Readiness Capabilities

Training for a healthy heart can improve overall health

Article
2/22/2021
Military personnel wearing a mask exercising in the gym

Service members must be heart healthy to perform optimally throughout their military careers.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Physical Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health

Order of Military Medical Merit presented to USU medical student

Article
2/19/2021
Military personnel receiving the Order of Military Merit

Army 2nd becomes the first USU medical student to receive the Order of the Military Medical Merit.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Health Readiness | Global Health Engagement

Improving health outcomes, readiness is aim of new grant funding

Article
2/18/2021
Military health personnel wearing a mask giving a shot to a patient

DHA offers funding grants for high-value research that supports better care, better health, and increased readiness, with lower costs.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness

VCE examines low vision with detection and care

Article
2/18/2021
military health personnel wearing a mask and performing an eye exam

Dr. David Eliason, of the Vision Center of Excellence, says low vision awareness is about prevention, detection, and continuing treatment.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Health Tools | Medical Research and Development | Vision Loss | Centers of Excellence | Vision and Hearing Loss Prevention
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 37

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.