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When Ignorance Kills

The Missing Link: Health Literacy

The National Institutes of Health define health disparities as "the difference in the incidence, prevalence, mortality, and burden of disease and other adverse health conditions that exists among specific population groups ….” Many factors may impact an individual’s health status and outcomes, including age, gender, socioeconomic status, educational background, race/ethnicity, language and culture, sexual orientation, disability status, and even geographic locale.

Did you know:

  • Women have worse long-term outcomes as well as increased hospital readmission following coronary by-pass surgery compared to their male counterparts?
  • Patients with low literacy skills are 29% more likely to undergo a hospital admission? Low health literacy is highest for those 65+ years of age, a segment of the population with a higher prevalence of co-morbid conditions and a greater need for polypharmacy.
  • More than 30% of direct medical costs for Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans in the U.S. are excess costs due to health inequities?

These are just a few examples of the price we all pay when one among us does not have access to or receive the care we each deserve. When you extend the problem to the population level, you can begin to imagine how quickly and significantly the repercussions can reverberate in a manner which has consequences – threats to life, limb, and economic security - for us all. Ignorance kills.

De-Coding the Healthcare System

Sometimes, it’s tough to know how to best navigate through the healthcare system. Many liken it to trying to read and understand a foreign language. Do you know what this means?  eht thgisni rotcod syas ot ekat eno dna llac em ni eht gninrom.

The Institute of Medicine defines heath literacy as “the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate decisions.”

Insight MD® can help:

  • employees navigate your benefits plan more effectively through innovative, proactive educational programs
  • provide tips and reminders to employees to improve engagement in health and wellness programs
  • increase patient engagement by developing more cohesive and comprehensive communications strategies.

Reading literacy is not the same thing as health literacy, nor does it guarantee it. That means health illiteracy can impact anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status or educational background. And the impact can be far-reaching, with implications for both quality and cost of care:

  • increased chance of misdiagnosis
  • longer time and more tests to make the correct diagnosis
  • condition diagnosed at a later and potentially more deadly stage
  • fewer preventive care visits and lower screening rates
  • higher rates of hospitalization
  • longer hospital stays
  • higher utilization of the emergency room
  • less engaged patient and/or patient perceived by the healthcare professional to be less engaged
  • problems with care plan development and adherence

Cracking the Health Literacy Code

By the way, “eht thgisni rotcod syas ot ekat eno dna llac em ni eht gninrom” becomes “The Insight Doctor says to take one and call me in the morning” when you read the words with the letters in reverse order. Easy enough when you know the code. When you don’t, not so much. Words really do matter.

Contact Insight MD® today to crack the health literacy code.

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