‘Seeking choice to fulfill health literacy needs’: Constructivist grounded theory of health literacy opportunities for patients in hospital waiting areas

Ms Cassie McDonald1,2, A/Prof Catherine Granger1,2, A/Prof Catherine Said1,3,4, A/Prof Louisa Remedios1

1The University Of Melbourne, Carlton, Australia, 2The Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Australia, 3Western Health, St Albans, Australia, 4Australian Institute of Musculoskeletal Sciences, St Albans, Australia

Background: When health information, resources and supports offered by health services respond to the health literacy needs of consumers, they can contribute to improved health knowledge, behaviours and outcomes.

Aim: The aims of this study were to identify, explore and theorize the potential of hospital outpatient rehabilitation waiting areas to share health information, resources and supports which respond to the health literacy needs of patients.

Design: Qualitative research study using constructivist grounded theory methodology.

Method: Thirty-three patients attending outpatient allied health rehabilitation were recruited to this multi-site study. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Constructivist grounded theory informed the sampling and analytical procedures.

Results: The resulting substantive theory of ‘seeking choice to fulfill health literacy needs’ and five interdependent categories identified an interactive process between patients and the waiting area environment. This process explained that patients: sought choice reflective of their health literacy needs; the waiting area offered limited choice at present; patients shared ideas to address this. Patients conceptualized a waiting area which met their health literacy needs as offering optimal choice: to learn health information; find resources to take home for future use; or to socialise with other patients.

Conclusion: Patients engage with health information and resources according to their health literacy needs. Health information and resources in waiting areas have potential to contribute to patients’ health literacy. Future research should translate patients’ ideas into practice to improve the choice available in waiting areas and evaluate the effect on health literacy and health outcomes.


Cassie McDonald is a full time PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne studying the health literacy responsiveness of hospital environments. She is scheduled to complete her PhD in December 2021. Ms McDonald works clinically as a physiotherapist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in outpatient rehabilitation. She also holds positions as a Research Assistant and Teaching Support/Educator in the Department of Physiotherapy at The University of Melbourne. She has volunteered as an APA Educators Group committee member in Victoria for 4.5 years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Recent Comments