Top priorities for healthcare providers include enhancing our clinical decision-making abilities and establishing effective patient/provider communication. Patients who do not understand do not take their medications or follow through with treatment plans; and everyone loses. Effective communication establishes trust, defines goals, sets mutual expectations, and can greatly assist with improving health outcomes and lowering healthcare costs. Health literacy refers to the capacity to obtain, process, and comprehend basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12% of the population has a proficient health literacy level. This creates an enormous source of economic inefficiency in healthcare, as a result from the increased need for healthcare services, the heightened risk for hospitalizations, and the abundance of use of costly services, such as inpatient admissions and emergency care.
To encourage appropriate medical and medication adherence, as well as healthy decisions in culturally and linguistically diverse populations, and in groups with health literacy skills that are limited, our best approach is one that provides effective communication and delivers information in a way that helps patients develop strong health information skills. In this way, when they encounter complex information and treatment decisions, they are able to better understand their medical advice or treatment directions, and are able to have a dialogue with their healthcare providers about any questions they may have. Medication understanding should be a particularly key focus since medication adherence in the U.S. sits at roughly 50% and is closely associated with a lack of patient understanding.
Our health communication capabilities are enhanced when we take advantage of the resources at our disposal that give us the tools to establish patient-centric healthcare. Easily accessible destinations such as www.healthliteracymonth.org and www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy are excellent starting points for researching ways we can collaboratively increase health understanding. PDR Network is also an extremely useful resource for adding to our own health literacy, offering alerts and specific product labeling, allowing us to keep current with information on products.
PDR Network also provides PDR+ for Patients at no cost to you. PDR+ for Patients was developed with the needs of patients in mind. From the use of everyday language, colorful icons, clear topic sections and conversational style format, PDR+ for Patients was designed to be easy-to-read and understand. PDR+ for Patients is intended to be given at the point-of-care versus at the pharmacy to help address patients’ questions and concerns early on before they potentially become a barrier to starting or continuing on therapy. In a recent patient study conducted by PDR, 70% of patients said that they had never received any written information about their drugs from their physician, but two out of three said they wished they had. Tools such as PDR+ for Patients provide physicians the opportunity to arm patients with important and necessary information and positively impact the doctor-patient relationship, all which can ultimately promote patient health literacy. Learn more about PDR+ for Patients by clicking here.
Salvatore Volpe, MD, FAAP, FACP, CHCQM
Chief Medical Officer
National Network of Libraries of Medicine. Consumer Health Outreach Resources; Health Literacy. Online content. http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html. Accessed October 1, 2013.