Health Literacy is an individual’s ability to read, understand, and use healthcare information to make decisions and follow instruction for treatment.  A 1995 study by two United States hospitals found between 25 and 60 per cent of patients could not understand medical directions, standard informed consent or basic healthcare materials.  This can lead to medication errors and adverse medical outcomes.
This influences all segments of our population; however, in certain demographic groups, it has been found that the following groups experience problems in understanding their medical treatment, etc.:

  • Elderly
  • Recent immigrants
  • Persons with low general literacy

This is not always true; some very intelligent persons have problems following instructions from their physicians because they forget to ask important questions or simply feel that they are taking too much of their doctor’s time (even though they may have waited for hours to see him/her.)

Effective preventative measures such as visual aids, brochures that are easy to read, or DVD’s can be provided patients.  Everyone needs to be given clear information at each visit, not medical jargon.  A program called “Ask Me 3” is designed to bring public and physician attention to this issue, to let patients know each time they talk to a nurse, pharmacist, or physician, ask:

1.    What is my main problem?
2.    What do I need to do?
3.    Why is it important for me to do this?

The safety of every patient is important to all healthcare providers.  Patients must meet them halfway to do all they can to understand and follow their physician’s instructions.

Wikipedia, Under the GNU Free Documentation License