This week, we celebrate a post-Thanksgiving bounty for Attribute 7 of the Ten Attributes of Health Literate Health Care Organizations with the second in our 2-part discussion on this critical quality.
We caught up with HRHCare Community Health to learn how it has implemented health literacy strategies to ensure its information, services and system of 28 sites in the Hudson Valley and Long Island are easy to access, use and navigate.
As always, these interviews are meant to spark discussion. Please join Health Literacy NY and be part of the conversation.
Attribute 7: A health literate health care organization provides easy access to health information and services and navigation assistance.
Say Ah!: As a Federally Qualified Health Clinic (FQHC), providing easy access and navigation for the patients you serve is integral. I know that HRHCare Community Health launched their fully featured website a few years ago. Can you speak to what health literacy best practices went into that and some feedback you have received so far?
HRHCare: The main objective of redesigning the HRHCare Community Health website was to develop a website that is user friendly, simple to navigate, and easy to find what you are looking for. It is always our goal to help our patients and prospective patients learn about our comprehensive services and get connected to care. First, we spent a great deal of time developing a design and navigation that is simple, has as much white space as possible, and leads the user to what they are looking for. We developed user profiles for the key audiences of our website and customized the experience to the top needs of each user. A clean and simple layout was our goal.
Next, we focused on the written content and language. We worked with Say Ah to develop content that was written in plain, familiar language. Additionally, we used call outs to direct patients to the information they are looking for. Icons were integrated into the design as a secondary visual element to assist in navigation. The patient portal is easy to find with a bright orange button on the homepage. The website is available in many different languages and includes a full accessibility menu. We have received very good feedback on the website.
Say Ah!: What are some steps you take to ensure that your patients or clients understand the health information and services they receive both in person and online?
HRHCare: First and foremost, at HRHCare we embrace the universal approach to health literacy because it’s in everyone’s best interest to improve communication. Many of our providers use the “teach back” method for patients to share in their own words what they heard or ask the patient to describe how they will explain to their family or loved ones about today’s visit. Second, we encourage staff and patients alike to ask open ended questions at all points of patient care—at the front desk, as referrals are made by their Patient Navigators or discussing foot care problems with the Podiatrist. One step has been to integrate the “Ask Me 3” questions into our Health Center services brochures and patient education handbook. This helps to promote the message that questions are welcomed and provides a “script” for those who need some help getting conversations started with their health care team.
Our health system represents a diverse and growing population in the Hudson Valley and Long Island. The presence of our Outreach staff and Community Health Workers are instrumental players in patient engagement. They can relate and help bridge the gap to ensure our patients are using primary care health services and understand the benefits of knowing your numbers for blood pressure or prediabetes screenings. Having trained medical interpreters on our staff is key. We know we cannot rely solely on printed materials; having staff that reflect the diversity of the communities we serve is valuable in being able to relay information that patients can process and use to make informed decisions is paramount.
Say Ah!: Are there any distinct cues and layout elements strategically placed within the physical layout of your center(s) that helps direct patients with ease?
HRHCare: Absolutely. We developed a bilingual wayfinding system to help patients find the departments and services that they are looking for. The wayfinding system includes icons to help with literacy and quickly identify services for patients of all literacy levels. Additionally, the system acts as an educational tool to make patients aware of the full scope of services offered at our health centers. This is a great way to easily help patients navigate the health system and learn about all our health care offerings.
Founded over 40 years ago as a Federally Qualified Health Center, HRHCare Community Health is one of the nation’s largest community health providers. The HRHCare network of 28 health centers throughout the Hudson Valley and Long Island provides affordable, accessible care to over 175,000 patients through more than 650,000 visits annually. Our 350 primary care practitioners and 700 specialists and support staff have made HRHCare a destination for convenient, high-quality care for all. www.hrhcare.org