Low Health Literacy Links to Healthcare Spending Confirmed

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , July 25, 2011

While they discovered higher levels of evidence on the above links, they found less or insufficient evidence or inconsistent results – sometimes because there were fewer studies or unadjusted analyses ­– on several other health behaviors. They found no relationship between literacy and Medicaid costs.

For example, there was less or insufficient evidence on whether people with low health literacy have poorer access to care, are less self-efficient, have more dental disease, and are less able to control their diabetes and its complications.

In an editorial published in the same issue, Cynthia Baur of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Nancy Ostrove of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote that Berkman's report "reinforces conventional wisdom that improving health literacy will help to improve outcomes."

They pointed out that without more research it remains unclear whether investments in improving health literacy will lead to healthcare savings. However, they said Berkman's work should prompt more research in this area.

Comments are moderated. Please be patient.

2 comments on "Low Health Literacy Links to Healthcare Spending Confirmed"

K. Gibson (7/27/2011 at 9:50 AM)
Inpatient education through media such as bedside television is helpful. This, as well as placement of TVs showing the same messages in outpatient clinics is part of what is done at Henry Ford Health System. More healthcare organizations should take this simple, low-cost step. Community outreach is also needed; classes in local schools could be offered for adults in the evenings, for example. Another approach is also vital. Educate the physician, and other caregivers, to be certain their patient understands everything about their care. Sure, they'll go over instructions quickly and ask if they're understood, but many patients are too afraid, embarrassed, or intimidated to speak up. Too many leave an appointment, or are discharged from a hospital stay, with a handful of Rxs and not a clue about the medications or follow up care. I do not think more research needs done here. Spend the money instead on making it work.

Gary Kolbeck (7/26/2011 at 6:05 PM)
This finding confirms that two federal mandates[INVALID]the "reach all patients" and "close the disparity gap"[INVALID]will largely determine the success of any healthcare provider's patient engagement strategy. Many tools have the capacity to reach the ideal patient. But some of the most vulnerable and highest-cost patient groups are difficult to reach outside the care setting, making it even more important that hospitals maximize opportunities during the inpatient stay. There is no doubt that patient interaction will evolve with emerging technologies, but hospitals shouldn't postpone patient engagement strategies to the indefinite future. Instead, they can make substantial strides in engaging and empowering patients by leveraging the television currently found in every patient room. Familiar technology combined with engaging video content and an interactive system provide an ideal solution for reaching patients with low health literacy.




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