Who empowers whom? The role of organizational health literacy in empowering patients

  • Carmela Annarumma
  • Rocco Palumbo
  • Mauro Cavallone
Keywords: organizational health literacy, health literacy, health communication, patient-centered care, pharmacies


Purpose of the paper: This paper aims to explore the organizational health literacy of pharmacies, which are believed to perform as critical patient navigators in the health care arena. Organizational health literacy is understood as the ability of health care organizations to establish clear and comfortable relationships with their patients, involving them in a co-creating partnership.

Methodology: A comparative research design was arranged. Two convenience samples of pharmacies operating in two regional sub-systems of the Italian National Health Service (INHS) were built. Sixty units of analysis were included in the study; their organizational health literacy was examined in absolute and comparative terms.

Results: The units of analysis were aware of their role in enabling patients, but they did not conceive organizational health literacy as being either a strategic or a managerial tool to enhance their ability to empower patients and engage them in value co-creation.

Research limitations: Since the research concerned two convenience, non-representative samples, it is not possible to claim the findings’ generalizability.

Practical implications: Organizational health literacy should be conceived as a core idea inspiring pharmacies’ activities. In particular, health literacy should be dealt with as a driver to raise the awareness of the pharmacy’s role in enhancing the effectiveness and the appropriateness of care.

Originality of the paper: The scientific literature has focused most of its attention on the process of patient enablement; in contrast, the role of health care organizations in empowering patients has been overlooked. This is one of the first attempts to examine the organizational health literacy of pharmacies, investigating their ability to perform as patients’ navigators.


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