Patients are given complex health information and asked to make critical decisions regarding health care on a regular basis. In order to do this, the individual may be asked to read discharge information, follow medication directions and understand symptom explanation. Many may not have the capacity to process basic health information and understand services because they do not have sufficient literacy.

Health literacy is defined by the CDC as: “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to learn, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.” 

Patients with a low literacy level may be at increased risk for adverse events. The incorporation of specific efforts to meet literacy needs of patients will strengthen the safety program.