How Health Literate is Your Health Organization’s Website?

July 11, 2017
emily amos

60% of adults and 88% of seniors in Canada are not health literate, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. These people have difficulty understanding and using health information that they encounter every day in places like healthcare facilities, grocery stores and through media in their community. These are staggering numbers. And to compound this issue, health organizations often struggle to communicate their health information clearly.

Health information can overwhelm even those with advanced literacy skills. And high stress situations, such as when people experience a health issue, cause literacy levels to drop. But it doesn’t end there low literacy has been linked to poor health outcomes for patients.

We know health organizations need to communicate complex, high-stakes information to patients. But creating materials on your website to clearly communicate your health information is easier said than done. Let’s explore some steps you can take today to make your website more health literate:

Make information easy to read

When reading online, you need to consider several things to improve user experience. Visually, text should be at least 12 point, and the font should be clear and legible. Avoid using all caps, italics or fancy scripts, as they can be difficult to read.

When considering the body of your copywriting, limit messages to only the most important adding extra information will confuse your audience and cause them to lose interest. Also, write using plain language to make your content more health literate for a wider range of readers, with a heavy focus on inspiring clear action through your messaging.

Communicate complex instructions with visuals

Individual learning styles differ, and within healthcare you are helping an extremely diverse crowd your website needs to provide clear information for every patient, regardless of educational background and reading level.

Opt for communicating complex information through visuals rather than text. Visuals are proven to help better present abstract medical concepts to convey your messages. Using both text and visuals will improve a patient?s chance of clearly understanding the information you?re delivering to them.

Improve the findability of your website information

People cannot find the information they seek on websites about 60% of the time. This percentage only increases for those with limited literacy skills.

Help people find the information they’re looking for by organizing information in a logical way. By using visual cues such as titles, headers and subheaders, you can also help users see the hierarchy of the information at a glance.

Other tips for improving findability include using plain language and larger fonts, adding video or audio files, and minimizing users need to scroll or search.

Conduct user testing frequently

Test your assumptions throughout your website’s lifecycle by conducting user testing. Ask real people to complete key tasks to see how easily they are able to do so. Check that top tasks are easy to find and complete. See if people understand common terminology. Check that instructions are easy to follow. By listening to your users comments and observing their challenges, you can make your website more health literate.

Last word

By using all of these techniques, you’ll make your website more health literate. Communicating clearly with patients leads to happier patients. If they can understand your health information thanks to your clear web content, you’ll be saving your staff time and trouble, and will be able to help patients more efficiently.

Ask yourself this: how well would your health organization’s website score in a health literacy test? Is it time for a tune up?

Download our FREE checklist: Web Content Evaluation ChecklistThis checklist will help you determine whether your content is clear, compelling and concise

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