Health Literacy and Plain Language Principles Strengthened in New URAC DM Standards

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Health Literacy Standards Strengthened

In a strategic move to strengthen the importance of plain language and health literacy principles in consumer health information, URAC, a leading health care accreditation and education organization, this week announced revised standards and additional performance measures in its Disease Management Accreditation Program that promote quality and patient empowerment.

To achieve compliance with the URAC Disease Management Accreditation’s standard Core 40 on health literacy, an organization needs to implement written policies that:

  •     require consumer materials to be in plain language,
  •     assess the use of plain language in consumer documents, and
  •     provide relevant information and guidance to staff that interfaces directly with, or writes content for, consumers.

This standard recognizes health literacy as a critical issue affecting health care outcomes and costs, distinguishes plain language from health literacy, and suggests that health organizations establish a target grade level to evaluate consumer materials. In support of health literacy, the weight for scoring was increased for standard DM 29 – Plan Addressing Delivery of Health Information to Consumers, and standard DM 30 – Evaluation of Consumer Information, further emphasizing the importance of health literacy in the Disease Management Accreditation program.

“With these new changes, the health literacy community celebrates a tremendous victory, one that now only strengthens the importance of health literacy standards in URAC’s Disease Management Accreditation Program, but offers even more protection to America’s health care consumers,” states Health Literacy Innovations Chief Content Expert and Multilingual Director Aracely Rosales. “We commend URAC for its work and for recognizing health literacy as a crucial part of patient empowerment and consumer care,” concludes Rosales.

“The updated standard revisions and accompanying measures support the evolving patient-focused health care needs,” said Peter J. Kapolas, Healthways Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Accreditation and Quality, and Committee Chair for URAC’s Disease Management Advisory Group. “In addition, the updates and revisions ensure enhanced processes that allow for effective program design and delivery, support improved outcomes and ensure consumer satisfaction.”

About HLI
Knowing that “literacy” is the single most important indicator of a health outcome, Health Literacy Innovations (HLI) creates tools to help eliminate medical mistakes and confusion due to low health literacy. HLI's flagship product, the Health Literacy AdvisorTM (in Spanish—Asesor de Comunicación en SaludTM) is the nation's first, only, and most powerful health literacy software tool. As a “health literacy checker,” the HLA streamlines the review and simplification process by allowing users to assess the readability of their documents and then fix it using plain language principles. The HLA applies nine well-known readability indices and an interactive search-and-replace function to replace hard-to-read terms and phrases and medical jargon with plain language alternatives. The combination of these two functions, a document “grade” with a readability score/grade level, and the ReadsEasy™ stamp (a reward for good work) sets the HLA software apart from programs or readability indices alone. For more information, please visit or call 301-230-4966.

About URAC
URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and certification programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability. Through its broad-based governance structure and an inclusive standards development process, URAC strives to ensure that all stakeholders are represented in establishing meaningful quality measures for the entire health care industry. For more information, visit

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