Background: Shared decision-making (SDM) has been found to be significantly and positively associated with improved patient outcomes. For an SDM process to occur, patients require functional, communicative, and critical health literacy (HL) skills.
Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the impact of a program to improve health literacy skills for SDM in adults with lower literacy.
Methods: An HL program including an SDM component (HL + SDM) and teaching of the three "AskShareKnow" questions was delivered in adult basic education settings in New South Wales, Australia. The program was evaluated using a partially cluster-randomized controlled trial comparing it to standard language, literacy, and numeracy (LLN) training. We measured the effect of these programs on (1) HL skills for SDM (conceptual knowledge, graphical literacy, health numeracy), (2) types of questions considered important for health decision-making, (3) preferences for control in decision-making, and (4) decisional conflict. We also measured AskShareKnow question recall, use, and evaluation in HL + SDM participants.
Key Results: There were 308 participants from 28 classes enrolled in the study. Most participants had limited functional HL (71%) and spoke a language other than English at home (60%). In the primary analysis, the HL + SDM program compared with the standard LLN program significantly increased conceptual knowledge (19.1% difference between groups in students achieving the competence threshold; p = .018) and health numeracy (10.9% difference; p = .032), but not graphical literacy (5.8% difference; p = .896). HL + SDM participants were significantly more likely to consider it important to ask questions that would enable SDM compared to standard LLN participants who prioritized nonmedical procedural questions (all p < .01). There was no difference in preferences for control in decision-making or in decisional conflict. Among HL + SDM participants, 79% ( n = 85) correctly recalled at least one of the AskShareKnow questions immediately post-intervention, and 35% ( n = 29) after 6 months.
Conclusions: Teaching SDM content increased participants' HL skills for SDM and changed the nature of the questions they would ask health care professionals in a way that would enable shared health decisions. [ HLRP: Health Literacy Research and Practice. 2019;3(Suppl.):S58-S74.] .
Plain Language Summary: We developed a health literacy program that included a shared decision-making (SDM) section. The program was delivered in adult basic education classes by trained educators and compared to standard language, literacy, and numeracy training. Teaching SDM content increased participants' health literacy skills for SDM and changed the nature of the questions they would ask health care professionals.