Coffee Break with Maria Todd 4/16/2014

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Money talks. In this case it shouts! Below are just a few of the conclusions from studies on health literacy and outcomes.

— Maria K Todd

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Today: Research Findings on the Financial Impact of Low Health Literacy

Each weekday morning, Maria Todd shares a useful tip to cogitate during your morning java break.

Today’s Musing

Research Findings on the Financial Impact of Low Health Literacy

Money talks. In this case it shouts!  Below are just a few of the conclusions from studies on health literacy and outcomes.
  • People with low health literacy have a lower likelihood of getting flu shots, understanding medical labels and instructions, and a greater likelihood of taking medicines incorrectly compared with adults with higher health literacy. (Bennett IM, et al., Annals of Family Medicine, 2009 and Soroui JS, et al., Annals of Family Medicine, 2008)
  • Individuals with limited health literacy reported poorer health status and were less likely to use preventative care (Nielson-Bohlman, Panzer, and Kindig (2004)
  • Individuals with low levels of health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized and have bad disease outcomes (Baker et al., 1998, 2002) and (Schillinger et al., 2002)
  • Inpatient spending increases by approximately $993 for patients with limited health literacy (Howard, 2004)
  • After controlling for relevant covariates, lower health literacy scores were associated with high mortality rates within a Medicare managed care setting (Baker et al 2007)
  • The annual cost of low health literacy to the U.S. economy was $106 billion to $238 billion (Vernon, et al., 2007)
  • Low literacy adversely impacts cancer incidence, mortality, and quality of life. For example:
  • Cancer screening information may be ineffective; as a result, patients may be diagnosed at a later stage.
  • Treatment options may not be fully understood; therefore, some patients may not receive treatments that best meet their needs.
  • Informed consent documents may be too complex for many patients and consequently, patients may make suboptimal decisions about accepting or rejecting interventions. (Merriman, Betty, CA: A Cancer Journal for Physicians, May/June 2002)

Among primary care patients with Type 2 diabetes, inadequate health literacy is independently associated with worse glycemic control and higher rates of retinopathy. Inadequate health literacy may contribute to the disproportionate burden of diabetes related problems among disadvantaged populations. (Schillinger, Dean, JAMA, July 24/31, 2002)


Inadequate literacy was common and strongly correlated with poorer knowledge of asthma and improper metered-dose inhaler (MDI) use. More than half of patients reading at a sixth-grade level or less report they go to the Emergency Department when they have an attack compared with less than a third of literate patients. Less than one third of patients with the poorest reading skills knew they should see a physician when their asthma was not symptomatic as compared with 90% of literate patients. (Williams, MV, Chest, October 1998)

Hypertension and Diabetes

Almost half (48%) of the patients with hypertension or diabetes in a study had inadequate functional health literacy, and these patients had significantly less knowledge of their disease, important lifestyle modifications, and essential self-management skills, despite having attended formal education classes. (Williams MV, Archives of Internal Medicine, January 26, 1998.

What I see here is that before we can put all the nifty apps out there to good use so they can start bending the cost curve on cost reduction and cost avoidance, we need to reset the health literacy level at which many of the tools are written. Otherwise the engagement won’t happen.

So, I found this tool, written by the CDC in Atlanta. It is a PDF you can click to download.
Simply Put: A guide for creating easy-to-understand materials.

You know by now that I don’t like to find problems and not find solutions. This booklet is cool. The guidance in Simply Put helps you transform complicated scientific and technical information into
communication materials your audiences can relate to and understand. The guide provides practical
ways to organize information and use language and visuals. This guide will be useful for creating fact
sheets, FAQ’s, brochures, booklets, pamphlets, and other materials, including web content. Writing it more simply will also make it more searchable. What drives me crazy in medical tourism is that they use “cervicobrachialgia” instead of “head and neck pain” and “haemodynamics” instead of “cardiac cath”. The other day one hospital write “Fertilizing” instead of “Fertility Testing”.

If you feel your website and patient education materials could use a quick review, let us know. We do this for lots of foreign hospitals and physicians. The cost is not expensive, but we can show you were the specific improvements need to be made. If you don’t have patient education materials, what are you waiting for?

Time for more coffee?  More tomorrow!

Cup empty. More tomorrow!

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_call_to_action title=”Talk with Maria About This” button_title=”Schedule a Brief Chat” button_link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]


Mon-Fri 8am-6pm (Mountain)
Sat-Sun By Appointment



Copyright © 2014 Mercury Healthcare International, All rights reserved.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *