Medical Illiteracy

A new study of patients ages 65 and older were more likely to die within six years of receiving written medical instructions than those who easily understood their caregivers, despite the health conditions at the outset. The study was done by a team at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and showed that of the quarter of the 3,260 patient participants who were medically illiterate, more than 40% died during the study, compared to the 19% who were medically literate. The results of the study were published in the July 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Medical illiteracy includes difficulty comprehending basic health-related material such as prescription bottles and appointment slips. And for those with chronic conditions that can be deadly.

Answers? Well maybe. First, caregivers and families need to keep a close watch on their loved ones. Physician office staff must take extra time in explaining things at the end of appointments. But beyond that, follow up phone calls, post cards to the home, anything that reinforces care instructions must be done. And of course I am always searching for ways that my PR and Marketing colleagues can contribute to the greater society in what they do and this is a perfect cause that they should jump on board. As our elders start to diminish sometimes it is no fault of their own that they do not understand.