Health literacy is the degree to which an individual can obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. Low health literacy can be difficult to identify, but it is prevalent among many individuals seeking care and exacerbated by the complexity of today’s healthcare system. The impact of low health literacy is costly, potentially resulting in medical errors, increased illness and disability, loss of wages, and compromised public health.
As individuals with limited health literacy are less likely to engage in preventive healthcare and are more likely to experience difficulties navigating health services, it is crucial to increase access to simple and easy-to-use healthcare solutions.
Let’s explore health literacy's role in disease prevention and control and how LetsGetChecked’s at-home healthcare solutions help people make informed decisions about their healthcare.
Health literacy in the United States
Nearly 36 percent of adults in the U.S. have low health literacy, with disproportionate rates found among lower-income Americans eligible for Medicaid . Low health literacy is estimated to cost the U.S. economy up to $236 billion annually .
Health literacy is integral to finding and accessing care, preventing certain health conditions, effectively managing those that occur, communicating needs, understanding choices, and making informed decisions. These skills enable patients to take control of their health by making smart choices, improving their communication with doctors, and equipping them with information to advocate for themselves in a medical setting.
Research has shown that health literacy can:
- Increase preventive healthcare use
- Lower emergency room visits
- Lower preventable stays in the hospital and readmissions
- Lower dosing errors
- Help patients better manage their chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and HIV/AIDS
- Improve health outcomes
- Increase patient satisfaction
Low health literacy and healthcare disparities.
Health literacy is a contributor to health disparities and social determinants of health. Although limited health literacy spans age, gender, education, and income groups, certain populations are at greater risk. There is a significant overlap in the demographic characteristics of those at risk for health disparities and low health literacy. Older individuals, racial and ethnic minorities, non-native English speakers, and with low income and, or both education are at greater risk for low health literacy .
Many individuals with limited health literacy are also from under-resourced communities and are already less likely to have the best outcomes. A lack of addressing their health literacy needs can exacerbate health inequity because people don’t have access to the information they need to improve their health. Giving people access to the health information they need can help improve their health literacy and subsequently improve health outcomes because it makes them more confident, active participants in their healthcare.
How LetsGetChecked can help improve health literacy
Navigating and accessing healthcare services can be challenging, especially for those with inadequate health literacy. LetsGetChecked’s patient-centered at-home healthcare solutions make accessing and understanding vital health information easier for patients.
We can update communication materials and engagement strategies to help support these members through their sample collection and kit returns, improving program engagement and performance. Our easy-to-use patient portals provide access to critical health information, and our dedicated in-house clinical team is also available to guide and support your people every step of the way. LetsGetChecked continues to integrate health literacy principles into our end-to-end lifecycle of care to help improve health equity and outcomes.
- J. Vernon, A. Trujillo, S. Rosenbaum, and B. DeBuono. Low Health Literacy: Implications for National Health Policy. University of Connecticut, 2007.