Blog Post

Empowering Health Literacy: The Path to Informed Decision-Making and Better Health Outcomes

February 29, 2024

The Path to Informed Decision-Making and Better Health Outcomes


Health literacy goes beyond the ability to read medical information; it encompasses the skills needed to understand, interpret, and apply healthcare knowledge to make informed decisions. “Nearly 36 percent of adults in the U.S. have low health literacy, with disproportionate rates found among lower-income Americans eligible for Medicaid. [Collectively] low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion every year”[1]

It’s estimated that the average reading age in the US is 7/8th Grade, that means an average age of 12-14[2]. We also know that if people are unable to understand and interact with the information they receive around their condition, their outcomes can be worse.

It’s increasingly important for healthcare ad agencies, payors, HCPs, and pharmaceutical companies to understand their patients experience of their medicines and speak to the challenges they face.

In this blog, we will explore the significance of health literacy, its role in promoting positive health outcomes, and strategies to enhance health literacy among individuals and communities. Join us on this enlightening journey as we unravel the power of health literacy in empowering individuals to take charge of their health and make informed choices.


What is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is divided into 3 levels: 

  1. Functional
  2. Interactive
  3. Critical

Functional health literacy is the ability to read and write about health information. Someone who has functional health literacy can find the name of their prescription or pick the date out of an appointment slip.

Interactive health literacy is the capacity to ask questions and discuss health information. Even if someone can read the information, they may not know what questions to ask, or feel comfortable talking about sensitive topics. They may not trust their provider or understand when and who to ask when they do have questions.

Critical health literacy is the skill of analyzing health information. This is the most difficult level. Someone with critical health literacy can read multiple prescriptions and determine how they can or can’t be combined. They can take information from their provider and apply it to their life.


How Content Strategy Can Impact Health Literacy

Content strategists view the world holistically. When it comes to healthcare, this means we can make a big difference.

1. Functional: Write in plain language. Define complex health terms. Use images and videos. Help people understand what’s written. This is great for people trying to read discharge papers or doctor’s notes. It’s the area we have a huge impact when it comes to websites and apps.

2. Interactive: Content strategists aren’t in the waiting room or the doctor’s office. But most health decisions don’t happen there. They happen in the grocery store, at the gym, in the car, in a restaurant, or at home. When you work on a project that impacts someone’s health, think holistically. Can you suggest they speak to a doctor – and offer advice on how to bring it up? Or can you encourage them to connect this information to their health in general?

3. Critical: The hardest part is helping people connect the dots and make their own health decisions. The best thing we can do is decrease the number of areas they need to do critical thinking. Why should it take critical thinking to understand how to take two prescriptions together? It shouldn’t. We can decrease this work from critical to functional.


Taking Action: Empowering Health Literacy

Health literacy is a powerful tool that can empower individuals to take charge of their health and make informed decisions. By improving health literacy, we can bridge the gap between complex medical information and individuals’ understanding, ultimately leading to better health outcomes. It is crucial for healthcare providers, organizations, and communities to prioritize and invest in initiatives that enhance health literacy. By promoting clear communication, providing accessible resources, and fostering a supportive environment, we can empower individuals to navigate the complexities of healthcare confidently. Together, let us unlock the power of health literacy and create a healthier and more informed society. This starts with providing accurate, actionable insights for the entire patient ecosystem.





[1] CHCS – Health Literacy Fact Sheets

[2] Center for Plain Language, (2017) ‘What is readability and why should content editors care about it?’

Marli, (2018) ‘Content Strategy for Health Literacy’


About PatientMetRx®

PatientMetRx® is an AI accelerated machine learning platform that has turned the liberation of patient sentiment on its head through data science to create a single source of truth about feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. People describe their healthcare experiences through stories on social media, interviews, and research. PatientMetRx® uses advanced data science and technology including its own specialized LLM’s (Drug-GPT™) to structure signals at scale to make the complex simple. Tracking actionable insights and mapping across the patient journey comparing HCP and Patient Voices.  Keep your finger on the pulse by putting the Patient Voice at the center of strategies. If you’re wanting to stay ahead of the curve in this rapidly changing industry then try it out today.

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