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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Universal Precautions Plus: Physician-Directed Strategies for Improving Patient Health Literacy in the Emergency Department


Working on the frontlines with safety-net populations, emergency physicians are uniquely positioned to take on a greater role in addressing the current health literacy crisis and specific barriers that may exist. Here, we review the concept of universal health literacy precautions and explore the application of these universal precautions in conjunction with other patient-centered strategies. More specifically, to improve patient understanding and outcomes, emergency physicians can pair universal health literacy precautions with strategies including multiple learning techniques, dual-code theory, empowerment counseling, family buy-in, and hands-on practice. We provide two examples of emergency department encounters where this combined approach was used differently yet successfully and efficiently. Ultimately, we aim to highlight the value of emergency physicians being equipped with basic skills in health literacy educational strategies.

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