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Hospitals Take Flight Lessons from Pilots to Avoid Government Penalties
Date:5/5/2013

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1. Take responsibility for the patients' health literacy. This is a small change in thinking with huge implications for safety. Most hospitals approach the problem as if it were solely the patients’ responsibility to make themselves smart about their care. Physicians and medical teams need to communicate on the patient's level, or to make sure the patient understands what they have just been told. A question LifeWings proposes is “What would you do differently if you assumed the patient knew nothing about healthcare and it was totally your responsibility as the healthcare provider TO MEET THEM WHERE THEY ARE – NOT WHERE YOU WISH THEY WERE in terms of health literacy?” It is the experts (doctor’s) responsibility to make sure the listener (the patient) understands. If patients cannot understand the plan of treatment, they won't follow through properly, and hospitals will have more readmissions, thus less money for safe, high quality care.

2. Write all instructions about the plan of care and medications at the 5th grade level. Analysis of health care literature for patients reveals that almost all of it is written at the eleventh grade level. The truth is that 93 million Americans read between the third and fifth grade level. Thirty-four percent have low literacy when it comes to reading forms or documents. An astonishing 55% have low literacy when it comes to numbers.

3. Use 14-point type or larger. Most health care instructions are written in 10-point type. This is too small for most patients and they don't even try to read it.

4. Use plain English words and avoid medical jargon. Use terms like earache not “otitis media”. Use language you would use among friends and family. Use directions a 12 year old could understand when giving out discharge instructions.

5. Always tell your patients "Why." Offer an explanation to the patient and explain exactly why this medication will help them have a long
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