Purpose: This manuscript provides some exploratory insights on the special information needs of people living with limited health literacy, with the eventual purpose of exploring the role of digital health-related information in bridging the gap between education and health. On the one hand, digital health information are crucial in enhancing the patients’ ability to navigate the health service system. On the other hand, the lack of a specific health literacy concern in designing friendly digital health information could pave the way for patients’ misunderstanding and disengagement. Methods: Drawing from the findings of a survey addressed to a convenience sample of 500 patients who were assisted by a public hospital operating within the Italian National Health Service (INHS), the ability of users to obtain, understand, process, and apply health information was examined. The Italian version of the Newest Vital Sign (NVS) was used to assess the functional ability of the respondents to deal with health-related information. In addition, the respondents were asked to self-report their ability to navigate the health system. A correlation analysis between NVS scores and self-reported patients’ ability to obtain, understand, process, and apply health information was performed to point out the special information needs of low health literate patients. Findings: Limited health literacy - as measured by the NVS screening tool - was slightly, but significantly associated with impaired patients’ ability to deal with health-related information. Elderly, disadvantaged population, and less educated individuals were at special risk of living with limited health literacy. In particular, low health literate patients were found to meet difficulties in finding, collecting, and processing health information. Limitations: Although the NVS is a reliable screening tool to assess health literacy skills, it focuses on the individual ability to understand and process textual and numeric health information (functional health literacy) and overlooks interactive and critical health-related competencies. Moreover, the findings of this study are not generalizable, but provide with interesting insights on the information needs of low health literate patients. Implications: Limited health literacy is a common, but widely overlooked issue. Health care organizations should be encouraged to consider the special information needs of low health literate patients in designing and delivering digital health-related information. Originality: Health literacy has been defined as a “silent epidemic” in most of Western Countries. However, still little is known about the special information needs of people living with problematic health literacy.
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