Health literacy plays a crucial role in individuals’ ability to understand and navigate the healthcare system effectively. It is not solely about reading health information; rather, it encompasses a range of skills and abilities. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), health literacy involves the capacity to read, comprehend, and analyze information; decode instructions, symbols, charts, and diagrams; evaluate risks and benefits; and make informed decisions and take appropriate actions (NIH, n.d.). In this discussion, we will explore how shared decision making, motivational interviewing, and best practices of models of care can enhance the health literacy of specific populations, such as children, the elderly, and veterans.
Shared decision making is a collaborative approach between healthcare professionals and patients in which the patient’s values, preferences, and goals are taken into account when making treatment decisions (O’Connor et al., 2007). This approach recognizes that patients have unique perspectives and experiences that can influence their healthcare choices. By involving patients in the decision-making process, shared decision making promotes their understanding of the available options, potential risks, and benefits associated with different courses of action. For example, when discussing treatment options for a child with a chronic illness, healthcare providers can engage both the child and their parents in the decision-making process. This empowers the child to actively participate in their healthcare and allows their parents to support and advocate for them. Through shared decision making, children and their parents can develop a deeper understanding of the treatment plan, which enhances their health literacy and increases the likelihood of adherence to the chosen treatment.
Motivational interviewing (MI) is a patient-centered counseling technique that aims to elicit and strengthen an individual’s motivation for behavior change (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). MI recognizes that patients may have ambivalence towards making changes in their behavior, including adherence to medical recommendations. By employing MI techniques, healthcare providers can address patients’ concerns, facilitate the exploration of their readiness to change, and collaborate with them to identify and pursue feasible solutions. In the context of health literacy, motivational interviewing can be highly beneficial, particularly for populations such as the elderly. Older adults often face multiple chronic conditions, medication regimens, and lifestyle modifications. MI can help healthcare providers understand the unique challenges and barriers older adults may encounter in managing their health. By actively engaging older adults in discussions about their health goals and preferences, healthcare providers can tailor information and resources to enhance their understanding and self-efficacy in navigating their healthcare.
In addition to shared decision making and motivational interviewing, implementing best practices of models of care can also contribute to improving the health literacy of specific populations. Models of care, such as the Chronic Care Model (CCM), the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), and the Health Home, emphasize the importance of providing comprehensive, coordinated, and patient-centered care (Bodenheimer et al., 2002; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2013; SAMHSA, 2015). These models integrate evidence-based guidelines, care management, and support systems to promote effective communication, education, and self-management for patients. For instance, in the case of veterans, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has implemented the Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) model, which adopts elements of the PCMH. By focusing on team-based care, proactive outreach, and continuity of care, the PACT model aims to enhance the health literacy and overall healthcare experience of veterans.
In summary, the concepts of shared decision making, motivational interviewing, and best practices of models of care can significantly contribute to enhancing the health literacy of specific populations, such as children, the elderly, and veterans. These approaches prioritize patient engagement, collaborative decision making, and tailored care, which are essential components of health literacy. By actively involving patients in their healthcare decisions, addressing their concerns, and providing comprehensive and coordinated care, healthcare professionals can support individuals in acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the healthcare system effectively and make informed decisions about their health.