Culture, Language and Health Literacy
At Health Choice , we are committed to making health care accessible and meaningful to all of our members through high quality, culturally competent services and through community health education.
We partner with providers who provide health care in a culturally competent manner with consideration for our members’ ability to read and understand English, their cultural or ethnic background, or if they have visual or hearing limitations.
Language Services for Patients
Health Choice (Health Choice) and their subcontracted providers are required to make language services (oral interpretation services and translation services) available to persons and/or their families with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) at all points of contact.
Health Choice offers telephonic or video remote interpretation services to members from a qualified interpreter in cases when the member is communicating with Health Choice staff. All Health Choice member materials are translated in Spanish and available in other languages upon request. Members may contact member services for translated written materials and to schedule an interpreter during their calls with Health Choice staff.
If a member needs an interpreter during their provider office visit, then they must schedule the interpreter prior to their visit.
Health Choice Providers
Health Choice providers must offer oral interpretation (telephone interpretation services, video remote interpretation services or in-person interpretation) and sign language (ASL) services at no charge to the member and/or the member’s family. Services must be provided:
- seven days a week, 365 days a year
- from a qualified provider office staff, office, agency, or facility trained on health care terminology or contracted vendor (Click here for a list of vendors.
- Sign language services are to be provided by licensed interpreters for the deaf and the hard of hearing pursuant to A.R.S. § 36-1946.
The Partnership for Clear Health Communication is a coalition of national organizations that are working together to promote awareness and solutions around the issue of low health literacy and its effect on health outcomes. Health Choice actively participates in the Partnership for Clear Health Communication. As part of our community outreach program, we actively seek to improve health literacy in our community by providing education and resources at community events.
What Is Health Literacy?
Health literacy is the ability to read, understand and effectively use basic medical instructions and information. Low health literacy can affect anyone of any age, ethnicity, background, or education level.
People with low health literacy:
- Are often less likely to comply with prescribed treatment and self-care regimens.
- Fail to seek preventive care and are at higher (more than double) risk for hospitalization.
- Remain in the hospital nearly two days longer than adults with higher health literacy.
- Often require additional care that results in annual health care costs that are four times higher than for those with higher literacy skills.
Although ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by low literacy, the majority of those with low literacy skills in the United States are white, native-born Americans.
Why is Health Literacy Important to Me?
Chances are high that some of your patients are among the 90 million people in the United States whose health may be at risk because of difficulty in understanding and acting on health information. In fact, you may not even know that these patients are in your practice because:
- They are often embarrassed or ashamed to admit they have difficulty understanding health information and instructions.
- They are using well-practiced coping mechanisms that effectively mask their problem.
What is “Ask Me 3*”?
“Ask me 3” promotes three simple but essential questions that patients should ask their providers in every health care interaction. Providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
What Can Providers Do?
Health literacy is known to be vital to quality patient care and positive health outcomes. Along with encouraging your patients to use the Ask Me 3* approach, simple techniques can increase your patients’ comfort level with asking questions, as well as compliance with your instructions, after they leave appointments. These include:
- Create a safe environment where patients feel comfortable talking openly with you.
- Use plain language instead of technical language or medical jargon.
- Sit down (instead of standing) to achieve eye level with your patient.
- Use visual models to illustrate a procedure or condition.
- Ask patients to “teach back” the care instructions you give to them.
*Source: Partnership for Clear Health Communication
For additional information on culture, language and health literacy, visit the following resources:
National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC), The Provider’s Guide to Quality & Culture
The Cross Cultural Health Care Program
Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative
Office of Minority Health
Office of Minority Health, Health Care Language Services Implementation Guide
Cultural Competency Training for Health care providers