Health Literacy

Culture, Language and Health Literacy

At Health Choice Utah, we are committed to making healthcare accessible and meaningful to all of our members through high quality, culturally competent services and through community health education. As part of our community outreach program, we actively seek to improve health literacy in our community by providing education and resources at community events.

We partner with providers who provide healthcare in a culturally competent manner with consideration for our members’ ability to read and understand English, their cultural or ethnic background, or if they have visual or hearing limitations.

We encourage providers to provide options to patients to ensure they can access care and that they understand the care provided to them. Covered options include access to a language interpreter, a person who can perform sign language if the patient has a hearing impairment, and written materials available in Braille for visual impairments, or in different formats and languages.

Linguistic Services for Patients

Health Choice Utah offers interpretation and translation services at no cost to you or your patients. We encourage members to request translation services, instead of relying only on family members, in order for the patient to have the best opportunity to understand their healthcare. Health Choice Utah offers a language interpretation line, onsite translators, and American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters.

In our member services call center, the majority of our employees are bilingual. In addition, we work with national and local resources to make phone translation available to members seeking assistance from our call center.

To coordinate linguistic or ASL interpretation services for your patient, please contact our Member Services Department at 1-877-358-8797.

What Is Health Literacy?

Health literacy is the ability to read, understand and effectively use basic medical instructions and information. Low health literacy can affect anyone of any age, ethnicity, background, or education level.

People with low health literacy:

  • Are often less likely to comply with prescribed treatment and self-care regimens.
  • Fail to seek preventive care and are at higher (more than double) risk for hospitalization.
  • Remain in the hospital nearly two days longer than adults with higher health literacy.
  • Often require additional care that results in annual healthcare costs that are four times higher than for those with higher literacy skills.

Although ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by low literacy, the majority of those with low literacy skills in the United States are white, native-born Americans.

Why is Health Literacy Important to Me?

Chances are high that some of your patients are among the 90 million people in the United States whose health may be at risk because of difficulty in understanding and acting on health information. In fact, you may not even know that these patients are in your practice because:

  • They are often embarrassed or ashamed to admit they have difficulty understanding health information and instructions.
  • They are using well-practiced coping mechanisms that effectively mask their problem.

What is “Ask Me 3*”?

“Ask Me 3” promotes three simple but essential questions that patients should ask their providers in every healthcare interaction. Providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

What Can Providers Do?

Health literacy is known to be vital to quality patient care and positive health outcomes. Along with encouraging your patients to use the Ask Me 3* approach, simple techniques can increase your patients’ comfort level with asking questions, as well as compliance with your instructions, after they leave appointments. These include:

  • Create a safe environment where patients feel comfortable talking openly with you.
  • Use plain language instead of technical language or medical jargon.
  • Sit down (instead of standing) to achieve eye level with your patient.
  • Use visual models to illustrate a procedure or condition.
  • Ask patients to “teach back” the care instructions you give to them.

*Source: Partnership for Clear Health Communication

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