August 16, 2012

Putting metrics behind how well (or poorly!) you communicate

We're AMA certified! That sounds good to read aloud. A few weeks ago I went to Chicago for two days of rigorous training at the American Medical Association WORLD HEADQUARTERS(!!!) to become one of ten nation-wide certified vendor-consultants offering their communication assessment of hospitals and clinics.

The assessment that we now offer, called the Communication Climate Assessment Toolkit (CCAT), measures 9 domains that contribute to effective patient-provider communication and are strongly correlated to patient reported quality of care and trust in the healthcare provider. Expectations in each domain were CCAT 360.jpegdeveloped considering overall importance, feasibility of implementation, and potential for measurement. Hospitals and clinics who bring Health Literacy Forward in to facilitate the CCAT receive validated scores, comparisons to national averages, and QI consultation in each of the following domains: 
  • Leadership commitment   
  • Information collection
  • Community engagement
  • Workforce development
  • Individual engagement
  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Language services
  • Health literacy
  • Performance evaluation

Learn more about CCAT at the AMA Ethical Force Website or just give me a call!

What's more, seven of the above nine domains were recently endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF) as leading measures of health disparities and cultural competency. This is BIG NEWS!! Check out the press release from NQF to learn more.

If you're wondering what the heck all this Health Literacy Forward talk is recently...I wrote this short summary just for you!

Health Literacy Forward, a program of the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, provides quality improvement consulting and trainings for hospitals and clinics around effective health communication. While 75% of preventable readmissions result from miscommunication, Health Literacy Forward, a certified vendor-consultant of the American Medical Association, helps healthcare agencies reduce preventable readmissions, ensure compliance with accreditation and regulatory requirements, and improve patient-safety and reported quality of care. 
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June 27, 2012

Calling all Central Texas Social Service Provider Teams!


You are conducting an intake with a potential new client for your social service program. Let’s call potential new client, Bob. As you describe the services available for Bob and the process for determining eligibility, Bob returns your questions and comments with blank stares, silence, and rolling of eyes.

Not so unusual, you may say.

You try to read Bob’s mood and body language and decide to move along with the intake. Bob nods his head in affirmation when you ask if he is interested in the program you are describing, so you ask him to fill out a very basic intake form. Suddenly Bob becomes very chatty, changing the subject from the topic at hand. As he chats away, you detect a sense of urgency in his voice. You begin to wonder if he was even listening to the last 30 minutes worth of information you explained to him- he is now talking about an entirely non-related event. He doesn’t pick up the pencil you set down in front of him. You notice he hasn’t even turned the intake form around… when you have handed it to him upside-down….

As a social service provider, you would probably consider a variety of possible explanations for Bob’s behavior. But I’m curious…was literacy one of the factors you considered? (I know- probably obvious, since this post is on a literacy coalition blog.)

In fact, literacy is very likely to be a barrier for many of the people who cross our paths. 1 in 5 Central Texans are like Bob, unable to read or write well enough to fill out a basic job application.
So where do you come in? You may think, “Well I’m not a teacher…the last book I read was in the 10th grade…who am I to talk about literacy with my clients?”

In response, the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas has designed a special training for our local social service teams. As part of our ongoing Literacy Illuminates campaign we want to arm social service teams with the tools to identify low literacy and connect clients to literacy services in the community.

This will be a 30 minute workshop we can offer at your next staff meeting and it will cover the following information:
  •  Defining literacy
  • Why is literacy so important?
  • About the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas
  • Types of literacy services
  • Literacy Illuminates campaign and providers’ roles
  • Identifying clients who are low literate 
  •  Connecting Clients with Literacy Services (How to use LCCT hotline and online searchable database)
Trainings will begin in July! If you would like to sign up your team of 5 or more providers, or if you would like more information about this workshop, please contact Emily at

June 19, 2012

Quick Health Literacy Updates

More often than not, when I sit down to write a blog post I feel a bit of writer's block. I think, what do these people want to know about my job and health literacy? Today I'm feeling that familiar feeling...we have a lot of cool stuff going on right now, but I don't know what you all want to hear about! Leave us a comment below to let me know who you (the reader) are and what you'd like to hear from me about.

For now, I'll just give you some quick updates from our Health Literacy Department. 

We had a very successful Health Literacy Luncheon for Austin-area community leaders in partnership with Seton, Humana and Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
From left: Peter and Meg of LCCT, Andy Martinez, CEO of GAHCC, Annie Crawford, Director of Ventanilla de Salud and chair of GAHCC Health & Wellness Committee, and Geronimo Rodriguez, VP of Diversity and Inclusion at Seton.

I also just got back from the week long Health Literacy Curriculum Development and Educational Leadership Institute at Tufts University School of Medicine...I learned so much and was also felt like a real asset to the group, especially on day-2 when I presented our work as a model example for others around the country. I could write 100 blog posts with all the things I learned or was reminded of during the Institute!

I'm excited to start developing a Health Literacy and Ethics workshop for Harden Healthcare's Leadership Conference in August...I'll be co-presenting with an attorney so that will be very interesting! Also in the training realm, I've had a few great workshops recently with interesting angles coming from the mental health field with Austin Travis County Integral Care, telephone communication with United Way/2-1-1, and am excited for a series of diabetes-specific HL workshops that I'm delivering to Baylor Healthcare System in a few weeks.

We're looking forward to the national publication of our Health Literacy Instructional Guide? We're excited about the expected release of that to the public early this coming fall. 

I'd love to hear your suggestions...what do you want to hear about? Health literacy curriculum development? Making partnerships with healthcare providers? Launching an earned-income venture?

I guess the first thing I need to know is...who's my reader? Health literacy folks...can you hear me? Am I talking to healthcare providers, literacy instructors, engaged community members? Holla at a playa with a comment and I'll be sure to write about the things in which you're interested! 

May 29, 2012

Dumbing Down or Wising Up?

In light of the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, the push to “get out the vote” and the call for increased civic engagement nationwide, let us be reminded what a huge part literacy plays in all of this!

A recent study by the Sunset Foundation reported that today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level. The study analyzes various cornerstone governmental addresses/publications and has assigned grade levels at which they were written.

  “…Whether you see it as plainspeak or you see it as a dumbing down, the data are clear: The overall complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has dropped almost a full grade level since 2005” (Drutman, 2012).

Plainspeak? Dumbing down?

Are these really the only two viable lenses through which we should view this trend?

If we look at current literacy trends, it is certainly worth noting that in Central Texas alone, 121,074 adults age 16 years and older struggle with reading or cannot read at all.

While some may say it’s dumbing down, maybe in fact politicians are finally wising up to the realities of their audience. I think we could all agree Congress has been speaking over the heads of the average American for years. Is it really such a terrible thing to start breaking down some of the overall complexity- a.k.a. - political lingo and jargon within our governing bodies?! How can we expect to be a government for the people by the people, after all, if the people do not comprehend?

Literacy is foundational for an individual’s ability to participate and engage with their community, whether it is to engage politically or simply buy groceries or fill out a job application. That is why organizations such as LCCT continue to work to expand the quality and availability of literacy services in Central Texas.

Check out how literacy services are shaping Central Texas by visiting our website to learn more about the specific partner agencies and programs we support.

May 8, 2012

Literacy is a GIFT

Did you know that just two weeks ago on April 23rd, sixty-two Austinites gave away over 7,000 books? For FREE?! That’s right, Austin took the prize for number of book givers per capita for World Book Night.

The mission: Get books into the hands of those that aren’t exposed to them.

I’m proud to say that I was one of those 62 givers, and my 30 books, John Irving’s “The Poisonwood Bible,” went to the individuals and families living at SafePlace. That night books made the rounds to all sorts of haunts, some predictable (like Book People and public schools), others not (like handing out books to Goodwill shoppers, unsuspecting street strollers, and a local drum circle).

I don’t have any snazzy pictures to accompany my book-giving prowess, so I’ll pass the torch to one of my fellow book givers who sums up her experiences nicely in, “rather be reading.”

May 2, 2012

The Gauntlet is Thrown: A Health Literacy Instructor Challenge!

Fresh from the Health Literacy Department - One of the best ways to teach health literacy and patient empowerment in the ESL, ABE or GED classroom is to guide your learners through their development of a personal health journal. A few years ago we developed the Doctor's Visit Toolkit. Inside, we provided general tips to be an empowered patient and templates for learners to practice completing common forms they'll see in the healthcare setting. Together with learners, we work our way through the Doctor's Visit Toolkit and upon completion, we encourage learners to bring it with them as a reference tool the next time they go to the clinic or hospital.

Through mid-July, we're challenging our Central Texas instructors to take on the Doctor's Visit Toolkit with their learners. Use it as an ongoing project that learners work on over several weeks. Once you've completed the activity with your class, send us an email with a sample of the journal you've created. Literacy Coalition employees and advisers will choose the top three models and share them in our next quarterly newsletter (scheduled for release on July 15th). The creator of the top journal will also have a featured article in the newsletter (distribution to 1000+ people) and win a prize package valued over $50!

Much of what you might include in a health journal can be found on our Resources Page. Email Peter if you don't have the 1st Edition of the Health Literacy Instructional Manual yet (that will be a great resource to get you started!) or if you'd like some templates of medical forms that were used in the Doctor's Visit Toolkit.

Things you might include...just to get you started:
  1. Medication schedule chart
  2. Medical history form
  3. Family history
  4. Sample insurance form
  5. List of key vocabulary for navigating hospital or doctor's office (e.g., information desk, emergency, pediatrics, physician, etc.)
  6. AskMe3 and other recommended questions to ask the doctor or nurse
  7. Patient-empowerment tips
  8. And much more! Talk with your students about what they want to learn regarding health information and get creative!  
Good luck and don't hesitate to call or email Peter if you have questions or want some resources to get you started! 



April 26, 2012

So cliché?

“Two heads are better than one.”

“Power in numbers...”

“T.E.A.M. = together everyone achieves more…”

The clichés and idioms are countless, and it’s certainly nothing new to propose that collaboration and cooperation among diverse players can lead to great results. At the core of the Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, we strive to create and maintain collaborative partnerships with fellow agencies across Central Texas for the sake of improving quality and availability of literacy services.  

But have you ever stopped and asked- Who says this is how things should get done?

How are we measuring that a coalition is in fact a ‘best choice’ vehicle to foster increased community capacity for social change?

Why do these questions exist? Because measuring the impact of a coalition is complex and few evaluation tools have been designed to measure the multi-level realities of community coalitions.  

LCCT interacts with community direct services, program management, organizational management and policy at city, county and national levels.  So where do we measure from? How do we assess the big picture for what we are doing?

While LCCT believes in the good work we are achieving, and we have much to show for our efforts already- more hard data is always ideal.

LCCT is excited to announce a new project that will seek to tackle the challenges of assessing our big picture impact. We have designed a two part assessment tool in the form of an online survey that will be administered to our 50+ partner agencies. This tool was designed in consideration of best practices research for literacy services as well as in reflection of similar initiatives/projects ongoing within the health sector.

We are excited to be in the process of administering Part 1 of the survey at this time.

Part 2 will be administered in June 2012.

In August this year we will have a wealth of knowledge gathered from our partner agencies to report back out to the community and to guide future practice within the coalition.

If you would like more details about the tool, or to view a copy of this tool, you can contact Emily Pulley at

Stay tuned for exciting new insights into the big picture impact of LCCT in the Central Texas area!