When educating a patient or family member about their plan of care, or disease process, how can you be sure they understand what you are teaching them? Is the patient or family member able to reiterate the information back in their own words? When teaching an adult patient about treatments or their condition, it is important to understand, first, what they already know. Based on what they understand (or don’t), approach the subject in a way that acknowledges that you listened. Patient education should be based on the patient’s educational needs, learning style and understanding so they are then equipped with the knowledge to make their own decisions to benefit their health.
It is also important to take health literacy into consideration when creating an educational plan of care. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) defines health literacy as: “The ability to access, comprehend, evaluate and communicate information as a way to promote, maintain and improve health in a variety of settings across the life-course.”1 Approximately 26% of Ontarians have high health literacy. Low health literacy can be due to a number of factors, but common barriers are low educational skills, cultural barriers to healthcare, not understanding certain medical terminologies and not being proficient in the English language.1