Addressing Health Literacy During Care Transitions Can Increase Hospital Quality Star Ratings

Addressing Health Literacy During Care Transitions Can Increase Hospital Quality Star Ratings

In response to the first release of the Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating in July, many hospitals are looking at each of the 64 individual metrics that comprise the score to identify areas for improvement. Two of the measures that comprise the “population health” section of the rating come from HCHAPS survey questions related to the patient’s health literacy and understanding of their care when they left the hospital:

1) When I left the hospital, I had a good understanding of the things I was responsible for in managing my health.
2) When I left the hospital, I clearly understood the purpose for taking each of my medications.

Care coordination can impact the performance Hospital Quality Star Ratings by using simple steps to increase patient health literacy in the first 48 hours after hospital discharge. Using simple jargon free language, focusing on key points, and confirming understanding through read back can increase health literacy. Care coordinators can use these techniques to address 3 areas of health literacy related to these HCHAPS questions during their conversations with patients.

Navigating the Health System:
Confirm that the patient understands the next steps they need to take to as they recover from their hospitalization. Address what appointments they have or need to make, and be sure that they clearly understand the next steps in recovery.

Confirm Understanding of What Their Medications Are For:
Adherence to medication regimes can be an issue for patients due to low health literacy. Question the patient to be sure they have filled their prescriptions and are taking them as prescribed. Discuss the purpose of each medication and monitor for potential common side effects. Involve the pharmacist again as necessary.

Confirm Understanding of Written Discharge Instructions:
Confirm the patient has a copy of the discharge instructions they were provided and is aware of why the instructions are important for them. Also, making the patient feel comfortable to ask questions by citing some common questions that other patients have about the discharge instructions can help to foster an atmosphere in which questions are welcomed.

Care coordinators can play a key role in increasing quality ratings by addressing the patients’ health literacy during post-discharge follow-up conversations and increasing the patients’ engagement in their healthcare.

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