Oral literacy demand of health care communication: Challenges and solutions

Debra L. Roter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Literacy deficits are widespread; one-quarter of the U.S. population has below basic literacy skills and the health consequences of literacy deficits are well-known and significant. While the need to simplify written health education print material is widely recognized, there has been little attempt to describe or reduce the literacy demand of health care dialogue. Patients with limited literacy complain they are not given information about their problems in ways they can understand, leaving them uninformed, frustrated, and distrustful.The purpose of this article is to review a conceptual approach to describing oral literacy demand in health care dialogue, to review several key studies that support the predictive validity of the conceptual framework in regard to patient satisfaction and recall of information, and to propose several practical ways to diminish literacy demand and facilitate more effective health care exchanges with patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-84
Number of pages6
JournalNursing outlook
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Demand
  • Health care communication
  • Health literacy
  • Oral literacy
  • Patient-provider communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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