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Developing a Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit (Text Version)

Slide presentation from the AHRQ 2009 conference.

On September 15, 2009, Darren Dewalt made this presentation at the 2009 Annual Conference. Select to access the PowerPoint® presentation (2.7 MB).

Slide 1

Developing a Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit

DeWalt DA, Hawk V, Broucksou K, Hink A, Brach C, Callahan LF

AHRQ Annual Meeting 2009

Slide 2

Project in Process

  • Rationale.
  • Process.
  • Prototype.
  • Feasibility.

Slide 3


  • Low health literacy is common.
  • We do not have good strategies for knowing who is struggling with health information.
  • Health literacy universal precautions is:
    • Structuring the delivery of care in the practice as if every patient may have limited health literacy

Slide 4


  • Identify and review tools.
  • Identify gaps.
  • Develop plan for toolkit organization.
  • Create implementation guidance.
  • Test individual tools.
  • Create "toolkit" as unified approach.
  • Pilot test toolkit in practices.

Slide 5

Tool identification and review

  • Searched the internet via Google (health literacy, health communication, health education materials).
  • Directed inquiries: Advisory Board, Health Literacy List Serve, primary care practices in PBRN.
  • Conducted conference calls with practices in NC and across the country with a reputation for working on health literacy universal precautions.

Slide 6

Tool Review

  • Catalogued tools
    • Training for clinicians and staff.
    • System changes in practices.
    • Use of educational media.
    • Connections with community organizations.
  • Made assessment of how tool could be used in primary care
    • Ease of use.
    • Documented experience or research on tool.
    • Format (book, internet, video, etc).
  • Avoided creating a catalog of patient education materials.

Slide 7


Total number of tool candidates identified.

Slide 8

Gaps to Fill

  • Practice assessment for primary care.
  • Individual tools (form templates for practices, patient follow-up procedures, etc.)
  • Implementation guidance.

Slide 9

Implementation Guidance

  • How do we take an idea and get it implemented reliably and sustainably in practice?
  • Steps for implementation.
  • Frame in the Model for Improvement (PDSA).
  • Examples of how others have done it.
  • Ways to track progress.

Slide 10

Image: First page of article entitled: "Using the Teach Back Method: Helping Your Patients Understand".

Slide 11

Image: Second page of article entitled: "Using the Teach Back Method: Helping Your Patients Understand".

Slide 12

Image: Last page of article entitled: "Using the Teach Back Method: Helping Your Patients Understand".

Slide 13

Test Individual Tools

  • Each "tool" or "implementation guidance" was tested in 2-4 practices.
  • Practices reviewed the tool and attempted implementation on a small scale.
  • Reviewed feedback by conference call.
  • Received feedback from Advisory Board.

Slide 14

Create Prototype Toolkit

  • Developed the framework for the toolkit
    • Introduction.
    • Getting Started
      • Form a team.
      • Assess your practice.
      • Raising awareness in your practice.
  • Built in tutorial for Model for Improvement.
  • Added examples of practices doing this work.

Slide 15

Toolkit Organization

  • Introduction and getting started.
  • Assessment of practice.
  • Four Key Changes
    • Effective Oral Communication.
      • E.g. teach back method.
    • Effective Written Communication.
      • E.g., forms, education materials.
    • Self-Management and Empowerment.
      • E.g., action plans, encouraging questions.
    • Supportive Systems.
      • E.g., community resources, supportive systems.

Slide 16

Final List of Tools

  • Getting Started
    • Forming a team.
    • Assessing your practice.
    • Raising awareness.
  • Effective Oral Communication
    • Communicating Clearly with patients.
    • Using the teach back method.
    • Following-up with patients.
    • Improving telephone communication.
    • Using the brown bag review.
    • Addressing language differences.
    • Knowing your patients: understanding differences.
  • Effective Written Communication
    • Designing easy to understand forms.
    • Using effective health education.
    • Making your practice easy to navigate.
    • Creating a welcoming front desk.
  • Self-Management and empowerment
    • Encouraging questions.
    • Action plans.
    • Improving medication adherence.
    • Obtaining patient feedback.
  • Supportive systems
    • Providing support for patients.
    • Getting patients the medications they need.
    • Using health resources in your community.
    • Using Literacy Resources in your community.

Slide 17

Image of pages from the toolkit.

Slide 18

Feasibility Testing in Process

  • 8 practices (pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine).
  • Each practice performs an assessment.
  • Each practice chooses 5 tools to try to implement in 3 months.
  • Follow-up phone calls to be completed end of September.

Slide 19

What are we learning?

  • Practices start from very different levels
    • Health literacy expertise.
    • Practice change expertise.
  • Need to grab the attention of practices
    • Video helps.
    • Get entire practice involved (not just clinicians).
    • Assessment results helpful.
  • Practices want
    • "Real life" examples.
    • Quick start guide.
  • Volume of tools is a bit overwhelming.
  • Must be easy to navigate the toolkit.

Slide 20


  • Conducted a thorough search for tools.
  • Juxtaposed toolkit with chronic care model/medical home.
  • Designed from perspective of making incremental changes.
  • Overwhelming for some practices.
  • Requires close attention and hard work, just like any reliable practice change.

Slide 21


  • Authors
    • Darren DeWalt, MD, MPH
    • Leigh Callahan, PhD
    • Victoria Hawk, RD, MPH
    • Kimberly Broucksou, MSW, MPA
    • Ashley Hink, MPH
    • Rima Rudd, ScD
    • Cindy Brach, MPP
  • Advisory Panel
    • Michael Barr, MD, MBA
    • Toni Cordell
    • Gail Neilsen, RTR, BSHCA, SAHRA
    • Michael Paasche-Orlow, MD, MPH
    • Ed Wagner, MD, MPH
  • North Carolina Network Consortium.
Current as of December 2009
Internet Citation: Developing a Health Literacy Universal Precautions Toolkit (Text Version). December 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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