Despite the proliferation of health and wellness information online and in real life, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 12% of the U.S. adult population is “health literate.” Many people do not possess the necessary information to be proactive about managing their own health, an issue that can be offset by providing content that empowers decision-making and motivates positive action.
There are numerous ways that providers of health information can help to improve both health literacy and outcomes. Some of the biggest brands in health employ a combination of information, services, tools and communities in an effort to accomplish this mission. There are however, a number of must-haves.
For starters, consumers seeking health information benefit when award-winning editors, writers, and producers work hand-in-glove with board-certified physicians who are responsible for reviewing each piece of content for medical accuracy. No matter where it "lives," whether on the web, in an app, or in a magazine, consumers need to trust and understand the information they are consuming. This is why content providers must go to great lengths to create material for audiences that may not be well-versed in the nuances of health care in a manner that conveys vital health information in a way that’s easily understood.
Unfortunately, it is very easy for individuals or companies to position themselves as experts and publish information without regard for accuracy and objectivity. Combine that fact with the number of new and interesting monetization opportunities, including native advertising, and it means a consumer must be very savvy to identify and confirm the source of what they’re reading.
When consumers go online looking for health information, they aren’t simply viewing content; they’re checking symptoms, researching conditions, and exploring treatment options. And when someone trusts you with their health, it makes it that much more important to take great care to provide thorough, medically accurate content in plain, accessible language.
Another opportunity to improve health literacy happens during the countless interactions that take place between patients and their doctors every day. The relationship between health care providers (HCPs) and patients seeking care is also predicated on trust. As consumers learn more about their health and how to intelligently navigate the landscape of making health care decisions, they become better patients and have more meaningful interactions with their HCP.
Health-interested consumers are on a journey, and they need information they can trust every step along the way, whether they’re preparing for an appointment with their doctor or beginning to understand the implications of living with a chronic illness. They have come to rely on publishers, their health care providers, and the manufacturers of OTC and prescription medicines to provide them with information. Trust is something that’s earned, which is why no matter where you sit along a patients’ journey, we must all work to earn that trust each and every day.
By Vanessa Cognard
About the author: Vanessa Cognard, publisher, WebMD Magazine