Understanding Health Issues is Vital to Health Improvement

When a patient receives a diagnosis or test result, there is often a large gap in the understanding of the ramifications of  the health condition, resulting in lower patient compliance.  Many individuals do not understand the critical need for completing a round of antibiotics when their health has returned, or the need for follow-up appointments.

The Foundation’s work to increase the adult immunization rate for influenza has illuminated the same issues. Low health literacy regarding the need for immunization drives down the immunization rates. Our community-based efforts last fall have informed our efforts to enhance public education on the need for annual immunization, as well as dispelling myths that discourage immunization. Common misperceptions about immunization, for example, are that an individual can get the flu from the shot, that immunizations can cause autism, or that you do not need annual flu immunization.

Experts agree it is a wrong assumption that higher educational levels translate to higher health literacy. We work with physicians and their staff to improve practitioners’ ability to communicate effectively with patients, particularly important with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, where community providers will see a great influx of patients that may not have had experience with healthcare systems, and may feel greatly disassociated with the process to improve their health.

The key components to improving patient understanding are:

  • Appropriate content: provide information to patient that addresses the patient’s main problem, what the patient needs to do and why it is important the patient does this.
  • Amount of information given at one time—how to identify and ensure that patients are provided necessary, limited, but clear information during the medical personnel-patient interaction and avoid medical jargon.
  • Speed at which this information is delivered—due to schedule limitations, interactions can be rushed. Medical personnel need to provide step-by-step guidance and engage the patient in the conversation by asking questions about the patient’s understanding of the recommended plan of care.

For more information on how Champions for Health can assist your practice to improve health literacy among your patients, please contact Adama.Dyoniziak.