Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cost of Low Health Literacy :: Pharmacy Times

The Cost of Low Health Literacy
Pharmacy Times: 4.09.2017 by Steve Leuck, PharmD

We all know that lack of literacy skills can pose a challenge for anyone navigating their way through every day obstacles. Place this person in a health care environment, and the problem increases significantly. Furthermore, discharge this patient from the hospital with current standards and they are sent home with stacks of paper that promptly get set aside with many questions left unanswered.
On average, individuals with low health literacy can read at a fifth-grade level, while consumer medication information is written at a tenth-grade level. Health professionals regularly overestimate patients’ level of understanding and commonly do not allow ample time for questions and answers. As well, it is not uncommon for hospitals to focus on meeting the regulatory requirements of the facility by sending patients home with all the required documents, rather than assuring a complete understanding of their discharge protocol.

As defined by the Institute of Medicine, health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

In 2003, the US Department of Education National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) measured, among other items, health literacy. Based on the results of this study, it was found that over 36% of the adult US population was either basic or below basic health literacy. In 2007, an analysis of this report, Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy, attempted to define the impact of this astounding statistic. The US population in 2003 was approximately 242 million adults. This corresponded to an astounding 87 million US adults with at or below basic health literacy.

Empirical research on a conceptual model placed the cost of low health literacy between 7-17% of all healthcare expenditures. In 2003 this dollar amount was estimated to be between $106- $238 billion annually. In the year 2015, the annual health care expenditures are estimated to be $3.6 trillion, which would provide a cost of low health literacy at approximately $612 billion dollars.  READ MORE @

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