Adobe Stock / DC Studio
Per the National Institutes of Health, “health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”
This means that while a patient’s ability to read is certainly important, the patient’s ability to comprehend the health information they have been given and use it to make informed decisions is paramount for health literacy. This is much more than just reading level!
It is important to acknowledge that health literacy (and a lack thereof) does not correlate with intelligence or education. Everyone, no matter their background, can be at the risk of misunderstanding health information, especially if the topic is complex or brand new, emotions are high, or the patient has had little interaction with healthcare systems.
So, what can you do to assess health literacy in your patients and ensure they receive information they can understand and apply?
The gold standard for determining the reading level of healthcare-related materials is the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG). Yes, that is its real name! SMOG uses several criteria to analyze text and assign a reading level based on grade level. This formula was developed in 1969 and is still in use today.
November 17, 2022