How many patients are capable of fully understanding the care instructions they’re given? The answer: barely one in ten.
A 2006 national survey found that 12 percent of patients fit the “proficient” health literacy category. Things get even more bleak for the elderly. For those 65 and older, only three percent qualify as proficient, while fewer than one in four can claim intermediate health literacy.
- Poorer health at higher cost,
- Higher hospitalization rates,
- Less use of preventative tests and immunizations.
According to an analysis in the New York Times, This Type of Illiteracy Could Hurt You, health care providers can’t view themselves as blameless. Says Rima Rudd, a Harvard University health literacy researcher, “We give people findings and tell them about risk and expect people to make decisions based on those concepts, but we don’t explain them very well. Are our forms readable? Are the directions after surgery written coherently? If it’s written in jargon, with confusing words and numbers, you won’t get the gist of it and you won’t get important information.”