Healthcare educators include information about health literacy in program curricula, since deficits are associated with health disparities. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 defines health literacy as the “degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015, para 1). Unfortunately, almost 90% of Americans have difficulty understanding health information if it is unfamiliar or contains medical terms (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019).
Digital health literacy is one of the goals of Healthy People 2020 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010), since approximately eight million American use the internet daily to research health-related topics (Eltorai, Ghanian, Adams, Born & Daniels, 2014). Patients with chronic disease are more likely to obtain information from websites (Rew, Saenz, & Walker, 2018). One concern is that unreliable websites may provide incorrect information to patients. Another concern is that the average readability of some consumer patient education websites is at 10.9, which exceeds the recommended sixth grade reading level (Bedaiwi, Alfaraj, & Pines, 2018).
This describes a learning activity in a graduate nursing program for a Patient Education and Advocacy course. Students analyzed national healthcare websites for readability, design, layout, cultural sensitivity, and appropriateness for a rural, low-health literacy population. Students obtained increased awareness of the issues of readability and appropriateness of information on national healthcare websites, better preparing them to educate patients in digital health literacy.