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  • University Medical Center Groningen
  • NUI Galway

Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

Discover how including health literacy in your professional practice can be used to reduce health inequalities.

3,717 enrolled on this course

Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

3,717 enrolled on this course

  • 3 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover how health literacy can boost health outcomes

Studies suggest that if health professionals include elements of health literacy in their day-to-day-practice, the benefits to health promotion, prevention, treatment and care are significant.

On this course, you’ll be introduced to the concept of health literacy. You’ll consider the consequences of limited health literacy, why it happens, and where it happens as you examine Europe-wide patterns.

You’ll also identify ways in which health professionals can help those with limited health literacy, and learn strategies for addressing unmet health literacy needs.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds Many health care professionals see patients who do not follow their instructions, do not take their medication the way they should, or just don’t show up for their appointments. This can lead to feelings of frustration, worry, and powerlessness. You would really like to help these patients. But you just don’t know how to deal with them. But how do you think your patient is feeling? Many patients are insecure about themselves. They may not understand their doctors, feel ashamed, are unable to ask the right questions, or experience difficulties finding their way through the health system. Many people have difficulty accessing, understanding, appraising, and communicating information in relation to health and disease. This is what we call having limited health literacy.

Skip to 1 minute and 1 second 47% of the European population has limited health literacy, which is related to medication errors, low adherence, and higher healthcare costs. Being able to support and empower these patients is essential for providing high quality care. In this three-week course, Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy, you will gain insight into what limited health literacy is, and what the consequences are for a patient’s health. Through familiar cases, you will find out how to recognise this in your patients, and you will learn about practical strategies and techniques you can use when working with patients with limited health literacy.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 seconds At the end of the course, you have the knowledge and skills to work with patients with limited health literacy, which can contribute to better health outcomes. And you will feel more empowered when talking to your patients. So if you want to learn how to work with limited health literate patients in an effective way, join us.


  • Week 1

    The concepts and consequences of limited health literacy

    • Welcome to the course

      We welcome you to the course Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy.

    • Getting to grips with the health literacy problem

      In this activity we disentangle the health literacy problem and reflect on patient experiences in the health system.

    • Accessing, understanding and appraising health information

      For patients to self-manage their health and disease, it is important that they are able to access, understand, and appraise health information. However, many patients experience difficulties doing so.

    • What is health literacy?

      Here we explore the concept and definitions of health literacy.

    • The health professional's perspective

      In this activity we consider health literacy from the health professional's perspective along with the implications of limited health literacy.

    • How big is the health literacy problem

      Health Literacy is considered a European problem and challenge affecting a large proportion of the continent's population. In this activity, we are going to explore the extent of the HL problem.

    • Rounding up Week 1

      In this last steps of Week 1, a short summary and a quiz will be made to assess how much you have learnt about the topics discussed during this week.

  • Week 2

    Approaches to mitigate health literacy problems from a healthcare system and patient perspective

    • Welcome to Week 2

      The introduction to the topics that will be reviewed during the second week of the course.

    • Patient abilities and demands

      Patients have expectations about accessing and using health services. A major barrier to accessing healthcare for patients with limited health literacy is their difficulty with reading and writing.

    • Introducing a Universal Precautions approach

      The universal precautions approach shapes the healthcare environment to make it easier for everyone but has the most impact on those with limited health literacy.

    • Health literacy and person-centred approach

      The person-centred approach focusses on specific individual needs by improving the carer-patient partnership, so that patients receive the best care possible tailored to their needs.

    • Health literacy and empowerment

      Patients with limited health literacy often have trouble being empowered. During these steps we will explore how patients can be empowered.

    • Identifying people with limited health literacy

      Patients with limited health literacy expressing these need can be challenging.

    • Rounding up Week 2

      In this last steps of Week 2, a short summary and a quiz will be made to assess how much you have learnt about the topics discussed during this week.

  • Week 3

    Strategies and techniques to mitigate health literacy problems from a healthcare professional perspective

    • Welcome to Week 3

      This week will be about how healthcare professionals and others working in the health(care) sectors can reduce barriers and enable patients to make informed decisions about their health.

    • Barriers in communication between healthcare professional and patient

      Patients with limited health literacy often experience barriers in the communication with healthcare professionals, for example the use of medical jargon.

    • The value of questions in meeting patients’ health literacy needs

      Asking the appropriate questions is an art that every health professional should learn to master as they help us to get more information from the patient.

    • Plain language

      During the following steps we shall learn more about the concept of plain language.

    • Encouraging people to ask questions

      Patients with limited health literacy are often reluctant to ask questions if they do not understand or need more information. There are several ways to encourage patients to ask questions.

    • Understanding in communication

      It is not always easy to identify a patient’s level of health literacy. In these steps, we will try to give you some signs to look for.

    • The teach-back method

      Teach-back puts the responsibility on the health professional to check that, in a non-shaming way, they have explained the issues so that the patient understands.

    • What next?

      You have finished the course. Let's see what you could do next.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Describe what health literacy is
  • Identify the health consequences of limited health literacy
  • Identify ways in which the Healthcare Professional can contribute to mitigating the effects of limited health literacy
  • Demonstrate how to address peoples’ unmet health literacy needs

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for current and future healthcare professionals working in the public or private sector. The course is relevant for a wide range of professionals who come into contact with patients on a regular basis, including health literacy professionals, doctors, and nurses, as well as speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians and podiatrists.

Who will you learn with?

I am an Associate Professor in health literacy and prevention. With my work, I hope to contribute to better heath and well-being of people with limited health literacy.

Postdoc researcher at the University Medical Center Groningen specialized in person-centered care and communication.

Research Assistant/Project Manager (Health Sciences, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen); Health Literacy and Youth Mental Health Research

General Practitioner, now a PhD Student at the UMCG with an interest in Public Health research, especially in the role health literacy has on people's health.

I am a Lecturer in Health Promotion in the Discipline of Health Promotion, at the National University of Ireland Galway where I teach and undertake research in health communication and health literacy

Who developed the course?

University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is a research university with a global outlook, deeply rooted in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.

University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG)

UMCG is building the future of health through its focus on complex patient care, research, education and training.

NUI Galway

The National University of Ireland Galway situated in the West of Ireland is internationally recognised as a research-led university with a commitment to top quality teaching and learning.

Endorsers and supporters

funded by


supported by

The Faculty of Medicine at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University logo

supported by

Jacobs University logo

supported by

Regione Marche Logo

supported by

Agenzia Regionale Sanitaria

supported by

EIT Health logo

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Develop skills to further your career

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  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 6 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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