Putting prevention into practice requires a shift from the usual practice of each GP managing the needs of each patient as they present, to taking a step back and looking at your practice population and what its constituents need for good health.
Thinking about your practice population, do you know how many patients you are currently responsible for? This isn’t simply the number of patients registered on your database. Think of your active patients being the ones who currently consider your practice as their Medical Home.
How well do you know these active patients? Can you easily answer the following questions?
How well do you know these active patients?
Being able to answer these questions accurately relies on having the right information. Some of it may be available through the practice, but other information (eg the socioeconomic status of your patients) might be more readily available through your PHN. Collecting and analysing that information requires teamwork.
The capacity of your patients to acquire, understand and use health information (ie their health literacy) influences how they manage their health and how they interact/communicate with health providers.1,2
There are a number of tools for assessing health literacy levels. Your PHN may be able to provide suitable tools for people in your community
Patients with low health literacy may understand information better when:
- key points are prioritised
- plain language is used (and in the patient’s preferred language)
- images are used
- questions are encouraged.
One of the easiest ways to improve understanding is using the teach-back method. This involves asking the patient to recall and restate in their own words what they have been told.
Red Book for patients
When a patient asks for a routine check-up, with no specific current concerns, I start by asking what they think are the key areas to be covered in a check-up for their age group. This gives me a good start to understanding their health literacy and their priorities.
I then show them the Red Book lifecycle chart to compare and contrast their thoughts with what the evidence says will be most useful for their health.
It’s a great way to get the conversation started and often helps reframe patients’ expectations when they may be expecting lots of ‘screening tests’ that are of low value and possibly harmful.
– Dr Caroline Johnson, Senior Lecturer, Melbourne Medical School