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BY THE NUMBERS //

Health Literacy: Comprehension Test

Cutting through the fog of medical jargon could help patients better understand—and perhaps improve—their care.

Spring 2012
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12
Estimated percentage of American adults who can adequately apply reading and analytical skills to understand and use health information effectively—skills ranging from following prescription instructions to using a table to calculate an employee’s share of health insurance costs

2011
Year in which a systematic review of studies concluded that low health literacy was consistently associated with more hospitalizations, greater use of emergency care, poor ability to take medications properly, and, among elderly people, poor overall health status and high mortality rates

30
Approximate percentage of patients at a Los Angeles hospital who were unable to identify the date of their follow-up appointment from a standard appointment slip

39.4
In one study, percent mortality rate after six years among patients aged 65 and older who demonstrated inadequate health literacy; those with adequate skills experienced a mortality rate of 18.9%

2:1
Increased odds that a type 2 diabetic patient with low health literacy will experience retinopathy, even after adjustment for sociodemographics, diabetes education, treatment regimen and duration of diabetes

1,000
Users, including hospitals, HMOs and state Medicaid offices, of the Health Literacy Advisor, a software program that suggests plain-language alternatives for difficult medical terms and phrases in Website copy, consent forms, patient education materials and medication inserts—such as heart attack for myocardial infarction, swelling for edema, and fever for pyrexia

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