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What is a health literate organization?

The IOM Roundtable on Health Literacy published a Discussion Paper in January that describes ten attributes of a health literate organization. The paper defines a health literate organization as an organization that makes it easier for people to navigate, understand, and use information and services to take care of their health.

The following is the IOM’s description of the paper:

“The health care system is very complex. Most people in the United States have difficulty understanding and using currently available health information and health services. This means there is an imbalance between the skills of people and the demands of the health care system.

Why Now?

Addressing health literacy is critical to transforming health care quality. Goals for safe, patientcentered, and equitable care cannot be achieved if consumers cannot access services or make informed health care decisions. These attributes are offered as guides for achieving the vision of being a health literate organization. The attributes are based on real world evidence and best practices. But it is not expected that any organization would have already achieved all ten attributes.

How Should Organizations Use These Attributes?

These attributes are guidelines for health care organizations that seek to ensure that everyone gets the greatest benefit possible from health care information and services. There are many paths to becoming a health literate organization. Individual health care organizations will probably choose different strategies and should be encouraged to test how well their strategies work and to share the results of their efforts with others.

Who Should Use These Attributes?

Providers and small groups/teams that deliver health care, e.g., clinicians, dentists, administrative staff, group practices, clinics, inpatients units, subspecialty teams. Health care organizations that house providers and groups/teams that deliver health care, e.g., hospitals, community health centers, pharmacy practices, and integrated systems. Payors and health plans, e.g., health maintenance organizations, insurance carriers, employee-based plans, the Veterans Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

The paper and a list of resources on health literacy can be found at:

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