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To most people, “health care speak” sounds like a foreign language. In fact, one in every two adults has trouble reading a prescription label or a vaccine chart.

Health information is all around us, yet many people struggle to understand what they need to do to improve their health. Low health literacy is a big issue – both in our state and nationally.

At BCBSNC we’re changing how we communicate by using more plain language. What exactly is plain language?

“Written material is in plain language if your readers can: find what they need; understand what they find; and use what they find to meet their needs.” (Source: Plainlanguage.gov)

We know how important this is for our customers. We are re-writing hundreds of letters, web pages, forms and brochures to make sure that our customers can more easily understand them. Here are some of the changes you’ll start to see:

  • Communications that are easier to understand
  • A “call to action” that’s clear so you know what to do
  • More titles and headers to make it easier for you to quickly find what you need
  • Charts, pictures and videos on web pages
  • Less jargon – using clear, everyday words or defining complex terms
Learn more about Health Literacy Month

Learn more about Health Literacy Month

We’re also training customer service professionals and nurse care managers to speak more clearly and to check for understanding during calls.

Why are we doing all this? Research has shown that nearly nine out of 10 Americans have trouble reading, understanding and using health information. This can lead to higher medical costs and to worse health outcomes.

Health care is complex. It’s our job to make it as easy to follow as possible. Whether there is a change in benefits or a new BCBSNC health program, we want customers to be able to make the most of what we have to offer.

As we make these changes, we’d like to hear your suggestions. Did you get a letter or visit a website that was nicely written, or was it hard to understand? Tell us about it by taking this quick survey. We’ll use your feedback as we work to make health care easier to understand.

Ingrid Morris

About Ingrid Morris

Ingrid Morris is a health care developer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. She leads BCBSNC’s company-wide health literacy strategy. Ingrid holds a master’s degree in public health and has nearly 15 years of experience in health promotion, working with nonprofits, public schools, clinics and health insurance.