Health Net is celebrating National Health Literacy Month for the seventh year in a row. This annual event was recognized nationally in 1999, and it’s a time for companies and groups to promote the importance of understandable health information.
Why do we celebrate it?
As a company, we think it’s important to create health information that’s easy to understand. We use this month especially to share the reasons why, and to also provide our employees with tips, resources and tools they can use to improve the clarity of ease-of-use in our member materials. The bottom line is that easy-to-understand materials help to improve the overall quality and health for our members.
The people behind “health literacy” at Health Net
We have a department called Cultural and Linguistic Services (“C&L”). This team is devoted to maintaining and improving Health Net as a culturally competent plan. What does this mean? It means that we work together when creating our written, video and external media materials that go out to our members. Some of the ways we do this include:
- Removing cultural and language barriers for our members. This means providing information in the language each person is most comfortable reading or speaking, and paying close attention to things that have special meaning within a culture.
- Meeting and/or exceeding compliance with oversight and regulatory requirements. We must follow all government, state and legal rules and guidelines in order to perform as a successful company.
- Promoting cultural responsiveness by Health Net associates. We do this by providing awareness, training, and education to our employees not only in the C&L department, but also across the company.
- Becoming diversity champions and agents for change. Health Net works to lead the way in making sure that our diverse group of members is served in a way that helps them understand and use their benefits.
Making improvements for our members
Our commitment to health literacy continues all year, from year to year. Here are just a few examples of what we’re doing to be champions of health literacy:
- The Clear Communication Program: This is aimed at all California providers and members, both on and off the ACA Exchange (such as people who are Health Net members as part of an employer-provided health plan). This new project is our way of addressing health literacy by enhancing communication between patient and provider to improve the health outcomes of members. A great product from this program is the “Ask Me 3” brochure, written in English and Spanish, that states the three questions that patients should ask their doctor each time they meet. Along with the Ask Me 3 brochure, our Clear Communication Toolkit also has a member handout explaining challenging health care terms in plain language, and a guide for providers and their staff on how to address health literacy, using resources such as Ask Me 3.
- Motivational Interviewing: Since 2015, our C&L department has hosted workshops for the Transitional Case Management Team. This team works with patients with severe or long-term illness who are transitioning from being in a facility, such as a hospital, to taking care of themselves at home. It’s a demanding job that requires a great deal of empathy and attention to detail. These four learning series help them do their jobs more effectively and with better results for their patients: Empathic Responding: Basic Building Blocks of Patient-Centered Care; Motivational Interviewing: Empowering Patients in Behavior Change; Providing Care in a Culturally Responsive Context; Decreasing Cynicism and Burnout.
- Empathy and Reflective Listening Project: This new project will train Health Net Call Center representatives to develop their empathy and reflective listening skills. The result is an improved customer experience and better results for our members and employees who call us for help.
- Easy-to-read printed materials: The Health Net C&L department works to see that all member materials they review are easy to read and understand. C&L provides training, resources and software to help our employees create easy-to-read-and-understand materials. Within the past year, we’ve seen results that show our employees are using the resources and truly integrating “plain language” into the creation of their products.
- Readability Studio (RS) software: This software reviews English content used in member facing materials to see the grade level of the document. The program uses popular English readability formulas to generate the grade-level score of content, and shows employees where they may need to rewrite something so it’s easier to understand.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve processed a lot of information, but we think it’s important. The theme for this year’s Health Literacy Month is “Be a Health Literacy Hero,” and we’ll continue working hard to make sure we can communicate clearly and be a hero to our members.
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