Posted Aug 2 , 2017 03:22 AM

Health Literacy in the eHealth Era: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Kim H. and Bo X. Patient Education and Counseling 2017_online

What were the findings (excerpted from the Abstract)?

This review aimed to identify studies about online health service use by people with limited health literacy, as the findings could provide insights into how health literacy has been, and should be, addressed in the eHealth era. To identify the relevant literature published since 2010, the authors performed four rounds of selection — database selection, keyword search, screening of titles and abstracts, and screening of full texts. This process produced a final of 74 publications. The themes addressed in the 74 publications fell into five categories: evaluation of health-related content, development and evaluation of eHealth services, development and evaluation of health literacy measurement tools, interventions to improve health literacy, and online health information seeking behavior. The authors concluded that barriers to access to and use of online health information can result from the readability of content and poor usability of eHealth services. They recommend new health literacy screening tools to identify skills for adequate use of eHealth services.

Why is this important?

Mobile apps hold great potential for eHealth and mHealth services tailored to people with low health literacy. Often (though not always) individuals with poor health literacy come from lower socioeconomic groups or rural areas. In many cases lower “e-literacy” compounds the problems with communication of health information. Efforts should be made to make eHealth services easily accessible to low-literacy individuals and to enhance individual health literacy through educational programs. In short, there is no single solution that will make eHealth work for those with poor health literacy. The important message of this review is that recognition of different barriers and working to correct them is vital to the success of eHealth outreach! It is clear that frequent contact between health providers and individuals with chronic illness improves outcomes. eHealth is a cost-effective way to make these contacts and every effort should be made to improve our messaging and simplify our technology to maximize the value of eHealth in low-health literacy populations! Do you currently use eHealth technologies in caring for your patients? How do you evaluate whether a given patient understands how to use the technology AND understands the messages? 

Read the Abstract: