Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

An article published today in the The Wall Street Journal reports that “when it comes to understanding medical information, even the most sophisticated patient may not be smarter than a fifth grader.”

Sad news. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirms that nearly 9 out of 10 American adults are considered health illiterate, lacking the skills needed to manage their health.

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

Being health illiterate may affect your ability to fill out complex forms, manage your chronic disease, and understand how to take your meds. And for patients with implantable devices, it includes fully understanding the benefits and risks of device therapy.

Here’s an example. A recent survey published by the National Council on Aging (NCOA), revealed that nearly a third of electronic implantable device patients and more than half of their caregivers did not recall being told about the risks of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the time of implant.

The survey also found that 3 in 10 device patients have had an MRI despite the risks, and of this group, nearly 20% reported problems with their electronic implantable device after having had the MRI.

Educate yourself. Limited health literacy amounts to as much as $238 billion a year in unnecessary health care costs. It also leads to poorer health outcomes, and that’s definitely something you cannot afford.


The complete Wall Street Journal article can be found here.

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