According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy ( naal/health.asp), only 12 percent of adults have what is defined as “profi- cient” health literacy, meaning nearly nine out of 10 adults might lack the skills needed to effectively manage their health.

Provide Health Literacy to Patients

Share basic information and encourage questions BY ROBERT KURTZ


SC staff typically have limited time to spend with patients. This

makes it imperative for staff to take advantage of every moment avail- able to provide critical education to patients, says Missy Soliz, RN, qual- ity and risk manager for Mississippi Valley Surgery Center and Mississippi Valley Endoscopy Center in Daven- port, Iowa. “We must also do so with- out overwhelming them or talking over their heads,” she says. This represents a growing challenge

facing surgical providers today, says Carolyn Crane Cutilli, patient education specialist at the Hospital of the Univer- sity of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a board member for the Health Care Education Association. “When I started practicing, a total joint replacement meant a patient was in the hospital for two weeks,” she says. “Now the length of stay can be 24–48 hours or even day surgery. We antici-

pate that our patients will go home and provide appropriate self-care, but they need to understand how to do this.” Patients unsure of how to effec-

tively provide self-care might do just the opposite, says Jovanna Grissom, vice president of operations for Pin- nacle III, a Lakewood, Colorado-based ASC development, operational man- agement and revenue cycle manage- ment company. “Patients being treated at ASCs

expect that we are going to tell them everything they need to know to ensure the best outcome possible,” she says. “We cannot afford to fail them. Unedu- cated postoperative patients are a risk to themselves and a potential liability for the center.”

Challenge of Literacy Unfortunately for

18 ASC FOCUS FEBRUARY 2018 | ASCs, statistics

show they often face an uphill bat- tle when working to educate patients.

“Health literacy is something that health care providers can take for granted,” says Soliz. “Patients are often not eager to admit when they do not understand health instructions or have their current condition under control.” While there are resources available to test health literacy, doing so for every patient is likely impractical, says Cutilli. Reasons include the time commitment required, lack of assessment tools and organizations’ lack of set protocols to address patient’s health literacy level. “Most health literacy and patient edu- cation experts feel that it is better for health-care providers to use universal health literacy precautions: assume that everyone has inadequate health literacy and teach simply.”

These precautions are built around educating everyone in the most basic way possible from the start, she says. “If a patient needs or wants more information, then you build from there. Until you know where they are in their level of understanding and what infor- mation they are seeking, the idea is to teach simply.”

Set Patients Up for Success ASCs can help streamline education provided to patients by making sure information is specific to each patient and the surgeon performing the proce- dure, Grissom says. “ Doing so might take a little work but this can help reduce the quantity of non-essential information thrown at a patient.” Soliz adds, “If a patient is having a procedure that raises the risk for infec- tion or if a patient has a pre-disposition to infection, we must talk about their current health status. We need to put these puzzle pieces together for them.”

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