Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Incredible Costs Of Low Health Literacy :: Forbes

The Incredible Costs Of Low Health Literacy
Forbes: 8.04.2016 by Scott Spann

Medical emergencies are usually near the top of life events that most of us prefer to avoid. If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic vehicle accident, broken a bone, or stood by the side of a family member experiencing a seizure or stroke, you likely would agree. Medical events, even if they are non-life threatening, can be extremely scary. Paying for those health care costs can be an even scarier proposition.

My wife is a health care professional and she makes an effort to pause and say a quick prayer whenever an ambulance passes by with the lights and sirens on. But sometimes what appears to be an emergency is nothing more than a brief scare. For many Americans, it is hard to tell the difference and low health literacy is partly to blame.

Here is a quick example. Last week, I was with a group of co-workers headed to a company dinner and we noticed a runner on the side of the road in obvious pain as an ambulance was pulling up in response. She appeared to have sprained an ankle. We watched as the runner limped to the ambulance under her own power and got in.  Perhaps our small group of observers may have been feeling a little too cynical that day, but we all agreed that calling an ambulance in that situation seemed a bit excessive. Wouldn’t it have been a cheaper alternative to call a friend, taxi, or use a ride sharing app such as Lyft or Uber instead of dialing 911?

The typical ambulance ride in the Los Angeles area can cost an average of $1,200. In some cases, you hear stories of companies charging accident victims when they arrive but do not need to be transported. For people who do need some follow up attention, the actual costs of an emergency room visit can be eye opening.

Health literacy is defined as an individual’s ability to understand and act on health-related information. While employees have shouldered more of the costs of their health care, their health literacy unfortunately has not increased as quickly. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12% of adults have the health literacy skills required to manage and prevent disease. That’s a pretty scary statistic! The AMA-MSS Subcommittee on Health Literacy reports that people with poor health literacy are more likely to make emergency room visits (many of them unnecessary), have more hospital stays, and have higher mortality rates and are less likely to be compliant with treatment plans.  READ MORE @

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