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Did you know that nearly 9 in 10 adults may lack the skills needed to manage their health and prevent disease? With 14% of adults experiencing a lower-than-average level of basic health literacy, researchers have found a connection between low literacy and poor health outcomes, such as higher rates of hospitalization and reduced use of available preventive services. As a result, healthcare costs go up and patients experience difficulties in a number of areas:

  • Navigating the healthcare system, including filling out complex forms and locating providers and services
  • Sharing personal information, such as health history, with providers
  • Engaging in self-care and chronic-disease management
  • Understanding mathematical concepts such as:
    • Calculating cholesterol and blood sugar levels
    • Measuring medications
    • Comprehending nutrition labels
    • Choosing a health plan
    • Comparing prescription drug coverage

Addressing the Gap Between Reading Proficiency and Written Health Information 

Health information is written at a 10th grade level or higher on average, creating a gap in understanding -- many U.S. adults have an 8th-9th grade reading level on average. To help educate those who may have low health literacy, it’s important to understand who is at risk. The at-risk population for lower health literacy includes older adults, racial and ethnic minorities, people with less than a high school degree or GED certificate, low-income level individuals, non-native speakers of English and individuals with a compromised health status.

Overcoming Health Literacy Obstacles to Maximize Patient Outcomes

Indications of Potential Low Health Literacy

  • Frequently missed appointments
  • Incomplete registration forms
  • Non-adherence with medications
  • Inability to name medications, or explain purpose or dosing information
  • Identifies pills by looking at them, but not reading label, which may lead to medication errors
  • Unable to give coherent, sequential history
  • Asks few or no questions
  • Lack of follow-through on diagnostic tests or referrals
  • Results of administered Health Literacy Assessment such as REALM or SAHL

Interventions to Help Improve Low Health Literacy

  • Teach-back technique (ask patient to repeat instructions in their own words)
  • Patient tools and resources (technology, handouts, personal touch)
  • Care plan modification
  • Provide ‘need to know’ information
  • Use pictures and other visual aide handouts, videos, etc.
  • Use plain language (instead of ‘annually’ say ‘every year’, instead of ‘hypertension’ say ‘high blood pressure’

Using the right techniques to identify low health literacy can maximize patient health outcomes using methods that empower the patient. RehabCare offers the tools and resources to help improve health literacy, designed to put the patient first. To learn more about partnership options that will enhance your organization’s existing operations, contact RehabCare today at 1.800.545.0749, extension 67640. 

By RehabCare