Assessing Health Literacy in Patients with Hypertension
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Background: Hypertension is the number one cardiac condition affecting approximately one in three American adults. Lifestyle modifications are the foundation to controlling blood pressure. However, barriers such as health literacy prevent healthcare professionals from educating their patients in ways that will have an impact on their blood pressure. Purpose: The purpose of this non-experimental pilot study was to identify health care providers’ current practice related to screening health literacy level during hypertension education, perceived barriers to utilizing the health literacy results in practice, and if providers adjust patient education based on their health literacy level. Sample/Setting: A convenience sample of nurse practitioners and registered nurses was asked to voluntarily complete an electronic survey. The sample of providers were members of state professional nursing organizations. Methods: Data was collected through an electronic survey using a convenience sample. An original survey was created by the research team for this study and titled “Health Literacy in Relation to Hypertension Education.” Once the survey’s window closed, the data was analyzed and implications for practice were provided. Descriptive statistics and measures of central tendency were utilized. Results: Eighty-five providers participated in the survey over three weeks. There were three respondents who did not meet inclusion criteria (N = 82); 45.1% of participants were nurse practitioners. Participants had experience in a variety of settings: outpatient: 63.2%, inpatient: 50%, academic setting: 7.2%. Only 56.1% of participants assess health literacy “most of the time” or “all the time.” The majority (75.6%) stated that they assessed health literacy, but did not use a formal tool to do so. According to the providers, the biggest barriers to assessing health literacy included “time constraints” (69.5%) and “poor patient compliance” (52.4%). Conclusions: Health literacy needs to be assessed prior to education on any health care subject. Assessing for health literacy should be standard for all providers in order to improve patient outcomes. Individualized education can have a significant impact on improving lifestyle behaviors compared to general education. Further research is needed on the frequency of use and barriers to health literacy screening that includes physicians and physicians’ assistants. Current health literacy tools need to be assessed for practical use, then integrated into the electronic medical record (EMR) to improve utilization. These tools need to be used in regular practice in order to truly measure the effects on patient education and health.