Health literacy is the degree to which individuals can obtain, process, and understand the basic health information they need to make appropriate health decisions. Health literacy is strongly associated with patients engaging in complex disease management and self-care.

Low health literacy can discourage individuals from seeking health services and is associated with poorer health indicators and outcomes. Literacy is correlated more closely with health status than age, income, employment status, education, or race and ethnicity [1].

Low health literacy affects people across the socio-demographic spectrum, but disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations, including the elderly, disabled, ethnic minorities, people with lower socioeconomic status, people with limited English proficiency, and people with limited education. Continue reading to explore the disparities in health and healthcare access that individuals with low health literacy experience.

Add descriptive tag

Check out our business solutions

Empower your people with accessible health insights and personalized care from wherever they call home.

Challenges associated with low health literacy

An estimated one-third to one-half of adults in the United States have low health literacy [2]. Individuals with low health literacy are more likely to have poor health, higher rates of chronic disease, and a mortality rate nearly two times higher than individuals with adequate health literacy [3]. They are also more likely to exhibit care utilization patterns that reflect a greater degree of unmet needs, such as excess emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Other instances when patients with low health literacy may experience challenges include:

  • Filling out complex health forms
  • Locating providers and services
  • Managing chronic conditions
  • Medical adherence
  • Seeking and engaging in preventive care
  • Understanding disease progression

The cost of low health literacy

Even with individuals in good health, poor health literacy often means they lack the skills to prevent disease and adequately manage their health. There is a direct association between low health literacy and a poor understanding of preventive care information [4]. This places additional financial and social burdens on the healthcare system.

Studies of patients with low health literacy skills show that while they had fewer doctor visits, they used substantially more hospital resources, placing more economic strain on the healthcare system and the U.S. economy. A report on the implications of health literacy for national health policy estimated that the cost of poor health literacy at $106-$238 billion annually, representing 7-17% of all personal health care expenditures [5].

Add descriptive tag

Contact our team

Drop us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

How LetsGetChecked can help

Navigating and accessing healthcare services can be complex, especially for those with inadequate health literacy. Addressing low health literacy is essential to improving the provision of patient-centered care and reducing disparities. LetsGetChecked’s healthcare solutions make it easy for patients to access the care they need from the comfort of their homes. We empower your people with easy-to-use testing, and a dedicated in-house clinical team provides guidance and support every step of the way.

Add descriptive tag

Sign up for our newsletter

Get curated insights from our team of experts, event invitations, and industry news you can use.