associated with health or any form of health care. It forms the basis of campaigns that promote health and aims at informing the public about issues in health and modifying the consumers’ behaviors that are related to health (Council of Australian Governments, 2011). very sassists consumers of health care to search and receive services, managing their health conditions and making everyday decisions to enhance their health. There are three major challenges that affect the provision of health information in Australia negatively. The first challenge is the provision of unclear, unfocused and unusable health information to the consumers. The second challenge is the ineffective interpersonal communication. The last challenge is poor integration of health literacy into education. These challenges ensure that health information does not remain a strategic resource in the Australian Health care system.
Provision of Unclear, Unfocused and Unusable Health Information to the Consumers
Provision of unclear, unfocused and unusable health information to the consumers in affects the Australian health care system negatively (Nutbeam et al., 2000). Health information is very important in promoting the well-being of the health care consumers. They need this information to ensure that they search and receive quality health services from health care workers (Australian Government, 2011). It is the same information that they help consumers have an effective interaction with the health care givers that ensure their conditions are well understood, and they receive the right treatment. In Australia, health care providers do not give health information that is clear, focused and usable by the consumers. These problems interfere with the provision of quality health care in this country. These problems are some of the reasons why I decided to aIDress this challenge. I can make the problem known, and I can also give actions for aIDressing the challenge by looking at the issue critically. These actions can be of great help to the policy makers who can correct the way consumers receive health information from the health care practitioners. If consumers get clear, focused and usable health information, the quality of health care offered in Australia will improve.
There are problems with the current health information in Australia. There exist some gaps between the health information that the consumers need and what is accessible or provided to them. A research done by health care providers and consumers investigating the quality of consumers health information found that the quality of most information used by the consumers was poor (Council of Australian Governments, 2011). It was poor in that it did not meet the immediate need of the consumers, and it did not promote quality decision-making. Another study indicated that most current health information is complicated and that many consumers cannot understand it hence it not usable. (Nutbeam et al., 2000).From the results of these studies, it is clear that it is a big challenge for consumers to access, understand and apply the health information to their advantage. This problem of poor understanding of health information is very prominent among those with low health literacy. The health information complexity presents an important barrier especially to the low literacy people and can hamper participation in their care. The complexity can also hinder them from taking effective measures in issues concerning their health.
There are several strategies that can be used to make the health information clear, focused and usable by the consumers (eHealth, 2013). esentation of this information (Australian Government, 2011). A good number of researcheshave been carried out to examine the interventions that can be used in mitigating the consequences of low health literacy. These that the use few clear strategies improved the understanding of health information. These clear strategies include the
Involvement of the consumers in developing health information materials can assist in aIDressing the health literacy by making sure that the information is clear, focused, readable and usable (Department of Health and Ageing, 2012). Other effective strategies include the process of personalizing the health information that is written and combining both written and verbal information in reinforcing important health messages. One review about this challenge identified that using resources with alternative formats such as audiotapes, internet, virtual support groups and health communities improved knowledge in health and led to more user satisfaction (eHealth, 2013). The review also found beneficial effects for consumers associated with self-efficacy, decision involvements and expressing confidence during consultations with the health practitioners. Benefits were also noted on health behavior especially in those consumers that used educational interventions that were web-based. Many studies and reviews done aIDressing this issue prove that the provision of clear, focused and usable health information to the consumers improve their understanding of their conditions and contribute to their well-being.
Ineffective Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal communication is described as the communication that occurs between two or more people (Best et al., 2012). Scholars believe that effective communication should be based on empathy, understanding,the United States identified use of ineffective personal communication as the largest obstacle in the provision of quality health information (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2010). In another study that was carried out in China, use of ineffective personal communication was identified as the main cause of poor provision of health information in that country (Victorian University, 2009). So, the role of interpersonal communication cannot be ignored if health systems want to provide quality health information to the public. I have been the victim of this ineffective communication where the health care provider gave me instructions that I could not follow due the poor communication that he used. Many people especially in Australia have suffered in the hand of these health practitioners who do not understand that effective communication is important while giving health information to a consumer. This problem in personal communication stimulated me to search for effective actions to solve this problem in Australia. I want health information to remain a strategic resource in the Australian Health care system.
Communication is a significant problem in the health care system. In Australia, researchers have identified communication as the frequent cause of the underlying complaints in health care and a major concern for consumers of health care (Keleher & Hagger, 2007). The health information in Australia is available widely from many sources, but consumers prefer to rely on health practitioners for information concerning their health and health care. They also use other sources to supplement the information such as media, friends, family and website. Consumers confirm that they seek health information from health practitioners than any other source(Kickbusch, 2001; Medicare Australia, 2012). However, many of the consumers have a big challenge of comprehending what their health practitioners advise them to do (Best et al., 2012). The problem of consumers not understanding most of what they are advised by their health practitioners indicate that health care workers must learn to use effective interpersonal communication.
A study done in Australia indicated that most of the consumers are not able to remember approximately 45% to 85% of the health information immediately given to them by their health practitioners (Kickbusch, 2001).The failure to remember is a problem of ineffective communication. Many experts believe that it is a mismatch between what the health practitioner thinks they are delivering the message and what the comprehending and recalling of the consumer. Health care workers comprehending of health skills and literacy in interpersonal communication can help in contributing to the improvements in remembering and satisfaction of the consumer (Keleher & Hagger, 2007). The consumer understanding can lead to greater participation, confidence and more improved consumer’s decision-making.
There are several strategies that can be used in improving interpersonal communication between the health practitioners and the consumers (Pleasant, 2012).Strategies for improving the interpersonal communication are mostly based on approaches and principles that are patient-centered. Research has shown that fostering an approach that is patient-centered to interpersonal communication lead to better health care, enhanced communication and improved health outcomes. Patient-centered approach is also related to increased efficiency of care. Strategies that health practitioners can use include attentive listening and information prompting, and confirming comprehending of the provided information (Jordan, Buchbinder & Osborne, 2010).These strategies also include the provision of options that are relevant to the consumer, use of simple body langhat the consumer intend to take (Institute of Medicine, 2001). These strategies can have a significant change in the improvement of the quality of health care given to the consumers and also help health information to remain a strategic resource in the Australian health care system.
Strategies that are used for improving interpersonal communication are mostly focused on the particular tools or interventions of communication which foster participation, partnership, debate and discussion by the consumers. There are different types of these interventions, and they include using plain language in communicating health information, choices and instructions (The Joint Commission, 2007). They also include using decision aids which have been proved to result in improving knowledge, comprehending of preventions, screening and relevant options in treatment. Processes of shared decision-making have been shown as a significant foundation for care that is patient-centered and as a means that increases participation of consumers in decision-making (Plain Language, 2013). People who use shared decision-making have favorable outcomes of health. Recall and educative strategies have also been shown to improve effective interpersonal communication. These strategies include requesting consumers to remember information that they have received from a health practitioner to check their comprehension. These types of approaches can involve the use of the ‘teach goal technique’, ‘teach-back’ and ‘ask-tell-ask’ methods and many others in this category (Nilsen et al., 2006). A Study done in Australia indicated that a good number of these strategies that are educative are mostly effective with clients suffering from certain health conditions (Anderson, Allan & Finucane, 2001).They are also effective in clients who demonstrate improved management care, understanding and recalling of health information given to them by the health care providers. The Australian health care system should come up with effective strategies to ensure that effective interpersonal communication is understood by all health care providers. The overall benefit would be making sure that health information remains a strategic resource in Australian health care system.
Poor Integration of Health Literacy into Education
Research has proved that education plays an integral role in promoting and maintaining quality health and the connections between health outcomes and education have been known for a long time (RuID, 2013). Studies have also indicated that education, general literacy, and health literacy are all interrelated in many ways. The informal and formal education of an individual plays a significant role in shaping their general literacy (Groene & RuID, 2011). It also helps in contributing to their skills and knowledge in comprehending health systems and information and shaping their capacity for decision-making taking appropriate actions their well being and health care. Poor integration of health literacy into education contributes negatively to the provision of quality health information. In Australia, there is a great need for coming up with effective strategies that can be used to integrate health literacy into education (DeWalt et al., 2004). This challengeof poor health literacy integration into education stimulated me to find the relevant actions that can be used to aIDress the problem. I have hope that after aIDressing this problem the Australian Health system policy makers would take this concern seriously and act promptly to aIDress this problem once and for all.
Many individuals ask themselves whether there is the need of providing education and training to aIDress health literacy problem. What they don’t know is that provision of education, and the necessary training is crucial to any process of change (Groene & RuID, 2011). through providing education and training to various groups of people. of adult education course to assist in teaching consumers on the best method to use in identifying credible information on the internet. Another group is the undergraduate students to help them in increasing their understanding of effective communication strategies. A good example is the provision of training to health practitioners on various techniques of communication like teach goal that can be used for checking whether they have given useful information to consumers (RuID, 2013). The last group is health practitioners to help them in comprehending health literacy and the significant role it plays in good health acre outcomes.
Offering education and training to consumers about health literacy and health is focused to build the capacity and ability of the person in appraising, acting, applying and understanding the health information. The knowledge and skills required in for reliable decision-making about health care and well-being are affected from the time of early childhood (Kohn, Corrigan & Donaldson, 2000). The early childhood is the period when small children are first taught sun protection, healthy eating habits, importance of hygiene and various health preventive measures. AIDitionally, during school period, children are equipped with numeracy skills and general literacy and thicated information (DeWalt et al., 2004). Education concerning the well being and general health care for individual clients can range from education involving managing and treating certain health conditions to provision of information concerning general measures for living a healthy life (RuID, 2013).Consumer education is very vital in the provision of quality health provision. The Australian health care system should look for effective ways of implementing these strategies.
Health care providers need the education and training so that they can understand the effective ways of giving health information to the consumers (Institute of Medicine, 2004). The number of people who are involved in the provision of health care services and the producing and utilization of health information and this increases the likelihood of communication error occurring. It is very significant that health practitioners understand the health literacy issue and how the provision of inadequate health literacy can affect negatively the outcomes of health (Baker, 2006). They should also understand how their roles can affect how easy or difficult the clients use and comprehend the health care. They should also strive to search for effective strategies they utilize for ensuring that they provide services, advice and information that easy to act on, comprehend and utilize. Studies have shown that there is increasing awareness among health care providers that poor health literacy leads to poor health outcomes. The process of training health practitioners in health literacy has led to improved communication and counseling skills and more utilization of evidence-based strategies by health practitioners in aIDressing health literacy. Interventions involved in training of health practitioners about health literacy were linked to increased screening of cancer rates and increased satisfaction ratings from the consumers. Offering education and training of health workers has a positive impact in the quality of health care and health information offered to the consumers.
Research has shown that the provision of unclear, unfocused and unusable health information to the consumers affects the Australian health care system negatively. Health consumers require clear, focused and useable health information to comprehend their diagnosis, prognosis and the likely health outcomes from the various tests and treatment they receive from the health practitioners. They also need the necessary knowledge to enable them in the management of their health conditions and prevent further disease progression. Ineffective personal communication has been shown to contribute to the provision of poor health information. Use of patient-centered approach in interpersonal communication contributes to creation of stronger relationships and quality of care offered to the consumers. Effective communication strategies must be adapted by the Australian health care system to enhance the well being and general health of the consumers. Poor integration of health literacy into education has affected the provision of quality health information negatively. Research has shown that education play an integral role in the promotion and maintaining of quality health among the consumers. Both the health care providers and the consumers must receive relevant education and training to understand and use health education. These three challenges must be aIDressed to ensure that health information remains a strategic resource in the Australian health care system.
Anderson, K., Allan, D, & Finucane, P. (2001). A 30-month study of patient complaints at a major Australian hospital. Journal of Quality in Clinical Practice;21(4):109-111.
Australian Government. (2011). National Health Reform: Progress and Delivery. Canberra. Commonwealth of Australia.
Baker, D.W. (2006). The meaning and the measure of health literacy. Journal of General Internal Medicine; 21(8):878-883.
Best, A., Greenhalgh, T., Lewis, S., Saul, J.E., Carroll, S. & Bitz, J. (2012). Large-System Transformation in Health Care: A Realist Review. Millbank Quarterly; 90(3):421-456.
Council of Australian Governments. (2011). NationalHealth Reform – Heads of Agreement. Canberra.
Department of Health and Ageing. (2012). Living Longer. Living Better. Canberra. Commonwealth of Australia.
DeWalt, D., Berkman, N., Sheridan, S., Lohr, K. & Pigone, M. (2004). Literacy and Health Outcomes: Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of General Internal Medicine; 19:1228-1239.
eHealth. (2013). Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record. DoHA. Retrieved fromhttp://www.yourhealth.gov.au/internet/yourhealth/publishing.nsf/Content/themeehealth#.UWyvGmd1EmU.)
Groene, R.O., RuID, R.E. (2011). Results of a Feasibility Study to Assess the Health Literacy Environment: Navigation, Written, and Oral Communication in 10 Hospitals in Catalonia, Spain. Journal of Communication in Healthcare; 2011(4):4.
Institute of Medicine. (2001). crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the Twenty-first Century. Washington: National Academies Press.
Institute of Medicine. (2004). Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Jordan, J.E., Buchbinder, R, & Osborne.R.H. (2010). Conceptualising health literacy from the patient perspective. Patient Education and Counseling; 79(1):36-42.
Keleher, H. & Hagger, V. (2007). Health Literacy in Primary Health Care. Australian Journal of Primary Health; 13(2):24-30.
Kickbusch, I.S. (2001). Health literacy: AIDressing the health and education divide. Health Promotion International; 16(3):289-297.
Kohn, L., Corrigan, J, & Donaldson, M. (2000). To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington: Institute of Medicine.
Medicare Australia. (2012). Practice Incentives Program Indigenous Health Incentive: Frequently Asked Questions. Canberra. Department of Health and Ageing.
Nilsen, E., Myrhaug, H., Johansen, M., Oliver, S. &Oxman, A. (2006). Methods of consumer involvement in developing healthcare policy and research, clinical practice guidelines and patient information material. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews; 3.
Nutbeam, D., Wise, M., Bauman, A., Harris, E., Leeder, S. (2000). Goals and Targets for Australia’s Health in the Year 2000 and Beyond. Canberra. Commonwealth of Australia.
Plain Language (2013). It’s the law. Plain Language Action and Information Network. Retrieved fromhttp://www.plainlanguage.gov/plLaw/index.cfm.)
Pleasant, A. (2012).Health Literacy Around the World: Part 1. Health Literacy Efforts Outside of the United States. Tucson. Canyon Ranch Institute [Commissioned by the Institute of Medicine Roundtable on Health Literacy].
PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2010). Top health industry issues of 2011. New York. PwC.
RuID, R.E. (2013). Needed Action in Health Literacy. Journal of Health Psychology2013; 24
Simonds, S. (2002). Health Education as Social Policy. Health Education Monograph; 2:1-25.
The Joint Commission. (2007). What Did the Doctor Say? Improving Health Literacy to Protect Patient Safety. Oakbrook Terrace. The Joint Commission.
Victorian University. (2009). Review of Current Cultural and Linguistic Diversity and Cultural Competence Reporting Requirements, Minimum Standards and Benchmarks for Victoria Health Services Project: Literature Review. Melbourne. Department of Health Victoria.