Authored by Sara Hoen

Tips to improve your health literacy

October 21, 2022 | Value-Based Care

With so much information, both good and bad, on the internet and social media, there’s no doubt healthcare has become an increasingly complicated subject. Improving your health literacy is one of the best ways to overcome this challenge and ensure you are making the best decisions for your health.

What is health literacy?

Health literacy is defined by the National Library of Medicine as: “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.”

In other words, health literacy is the ability to assess your current health status and take action by using accurate medical information. It might sound simple, however, research shows American citizens struggle with navigating the healthcare system. According to a study conducted by the Center for Health Care Strategies, “nearly 36 percent of America’s adult population–87 million adults– is considered functionally illiterate.”

Based on these percentages, there’s a chance your health literacy might be lower than you think. Reasons for this may be:

  • You’re older in age
  • You live or have lived, in poverty
  • English is your second language
  • You suffer from poor health or chronic medical conditions
  • You have been prevented from completing or receiving higher education

Why is health literacy important?

Health conditions are inevitable, which means it’s a good idea to start developing health literacy skills sooner rather than later. Some of the benefits you’ll see include:

Better chances at navigating your healthcare network

Finding the right doctor and dealing with insurance companies is overwhelming. Being health literate can increase your ability to understand the healthcare system so you can find providers who suit your needs and preferences.

Knowing how to communicate the state of your health

Your time is valuable, so it’s good to be clear and well-informed during your doctor’s visits. Effectively communicating your needs (and making sure your provider is on the same page) will help you choose the right specialists, medications, and treatments.

Cutting down on healthcare costs

By not understanding your medical needs, you could run the risk of ending up with unnecessary expenses, such as being misdiagnosed, paying for wrong medications and treatments, or even needless trips to the ER.

How can you improve your health literacy? Consider these helpful tips:

Bring a pen and notebook to your next appointment

There is a chance that you might be bombarded with a lot of information during your doctor’s appointments. Taking notes is an effective way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your visits. If it’s an option, you might even consider bringing a recording device so you can go back and review your discussion. Ask your doctor to speak slowly and simplify complicated terms to prevent any misunderstandings.

Come prepared with questions

Often, patients will refrain from asking questions because they don’t want to sound silly. Remember, your doctor should never dismiss or judge your legitimate concerns. Before your appointment, research any questions you have regarding your health and ask your doctor for his or her honest input.

Bring a buddy

When appropriate, bringing a trusted person to your appointments can be a helpful move. Whether it’s for language interpretation, reviewing notes with you, or simply providing emotional support, having someone with you might ease the stress of intimidating doctor visits.

Always cross-check information you find on the internet

If you’re doing research on your own, make sure to seek peer-reviewed articles from legitimate organizations. Some of the more reputable sources include: The National Institute of Health, The American Cancer Society, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and As a rule of thumb, if the website ends in .gov, .edu, or .org, it is more likely the information has been peer reviewed and sponsored by government agencies, educational programs, or non-profit organizations.

Health literacy is a key component of value-based care because it helps empower patients and encourages them to seek preventative services. With the help of educational resources, in-person and Telehealth appointments, and an extensive network of specialties and providers, our providers and patients work together to achieve personalized, affordable, and high-quality care.

Zahra Nielsen


Zahra Nielsen

Zahra Nielsen currently serves as Revere Health’s Community Relations Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University with the intention of working with at-risk communities, but she has since found a love for community engagement, volunteerism, and outreach. Since graduating, her career has taken her to non-profit organizations across the country. From Washington D.C, New York, and Salt Lake City, she has had the opportunity to work with notable organizations such as the National Council for Adoption, Volunteers of America, and United Way. After years of working in different areas of community engagement, Zahra has found her niche in writing. She hopes to pursue this creative form of outreach as a way of inspiring community members to be mindful of their well-being and the well-being of others. In her free time, Zahra likes to practice and teach yoga. She also enjoys live theatre, listening to music, and watching endless hours of quirky movies and TV shows with her husband.

Telehealth is not appropriate for every medical concern, so it’s important to ask your provider whether a virtual visit is suitable for your needs.

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.