Clipboard iconAre you health smart?

Posted June 24, 2015

Do you think that health care information and directions are confusing? You’re not alone!

A lot of attention is being paid to improving “health literacy.” That’s the ability to read and understand information about your health and make decisions about it.

While 99% of Americans can read, only approximately 12% are health literate, according to an iTriage Infographic on health literacy. As a result, the Infographic notes, “50% of patients leave their doctor appointments not knowing what they were told or what they’re supposed to do. One in two adults can’t read a drug label.”

What are the consequences?

“People with poor health literacy are more likely to visit an emergency room, have chronic conditions and don’t know how to manage them, and spend more money for their health care,” iTriage summarizes.

Here are some steps you can take to improve your own health smarts:

  • In any health setting, ask questions if you don’t understand and need more information.
  • Repeat back to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist what they tell you to do. You want to be sure to get it right. Even better, before leaving your appointment, ask someone to write down any instructions.
  • Learn about your own medical conditions and medications. Take a nutrition class, read up on health topics, stop by the Fallon Information Center in Shrewsbury, and visit online health sites, such as choosingwisely.org, which has patient-friendly health information.

You might also explore a new website, HealthAtHand.com, which has quizzes to see what you do and don’t know. You can mark your progress as you improve your health education.

Remember, any health website or even printed material is never a substitute for your doctor’s advice. But, the more you know and understand, the better you and your doctor can work together to help keep you as healthy as possible.

Sources: iTriage Infographic (blog.itriagehealth.com/health-literate, October 2, 2013); heart.org (search “Health Literacy - Understanding What Your Doctor Is Saying,” July 29, 2014)

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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.