Health Literacy Means Better Patient Outcomes

by | Oct 6, 2016 | Blog

Being able to process and navigate the right information in a timely manner is increasingly important for older adults with two or more chronic diseases. As information, choices, and decisions about health care become more available and complex, aging patients require more assistance with making sense of the options before them.

Health literacy is defined as the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of patients to access, understand, and use healthcare information in ways that promote and maintain good health. Poor health literacy in older adults is associated with widening gaps in care, increased hospitalizations and readmissions, poor understanding of discharge planning, and lower medication compliance. Lower health literacy increases use of health care services, and several safety issues, including medical and medication errors.

About 7 out of 10 older adults have difficulty understanding and using print materials. Nearly 8 out of 10 have difficulty understanding forms or charts, or interpreting numbers or calculations. Many can’t properly follow printed instructions or labels. Older adults and their caregivers need dependable health information to prevent and manage complex conditions. Having access to dependable health information increases the odds that patients will follow physician recommendations and heed any medication warnings. The density and technical nature of most health information coupled with the natural processes of aging can strain a patient’s capacity to use health information in a beneficial way.

Chronic Care Management (CCM) and Transitional Care Management (TCM) care teams can help patients decipher information properly. Care Managers can help patients retrieve prescriptions and referrals, select providers and specialists, plan best times and amounts for taking multiple medications, and interpret medical terminology related to their particular conditions. Older adults tend to process information at a slower pace, have less working memory (the ability to process multiple bits of information at a given moment), and experience difficulty in comprehending abstractions. Care Managers can assist older patients, particularly those adversely impacted by cognitive aging, with understanding their care needs.

With all of the health information available online, on their phones, delivered by mail to their homes and shared in print, it’s important that older patients with chronic conditions are better-informed consumers of their own healthcare services. Care Managers can work with providers to ensure that older patients receive reliable health information tangible to the conditions and care needs they face. This can be critical as older patients may misinterpret, misuse or become confused by the information they are receiving on nearly a daily basis. Care Managers provide the kind of insight and input for older patients to keep them focused on what’s most vital and beneficial to them and their unique circumstances.

Being aware of the needs of older adults with low literacy and the mental and physical conditions that may influence understanding of information is important to patient care. Improving communication between health care practitioners and older adults, better serves patients and leads to excellent patient outcomes.

Thursday, 06 October 2016. Posted in Patient Communication, Health Literacy, TCM, CCM

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