In the United States, 36% of adults (approximately 115 million) lack the required health literacy to read or act on prescription labels, patient handouts, understand pharmacist counseling, or to convey their needs to the pharmacist or healthcare professional. Low health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher hospitalization and mortality rates, as well as an increased risk of adverse medication events. Current barriers to effective medication counseling do not regularly allow time for the health professional to sit with the patient and discuss their medications for 10-15 minutes. Healthcare staff are under tremendous pressure to meet their performance metrics and will regularly cover the counseling points of three or four medications in fewer than two minutes. The patient is then sent home with stacks of medication leaflets that may be difficult to read.
Health Literacy: The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions
- In the United States, 36% of adults (115 million) lack the required health literacy to read or act on prescription labels, patient handouts, or to understand counseling recommendations.
- Low health literacy is associated with poorer health outcomes, higher mortality rates and increased risk of medication errors.
Problems with current Medication Education
- On average, individuals with low health literacy can read at a fifth-grade level, while Consumer Medication Information is written at a tenth grade level.
- Healthcare staff are under tremendous pressure to meet pharmacy metrics and regularly counsel patients on 3 or 4 medications in less than 2 minutes.
- Health professionals overestimate patients’ level of understanding.
Current Limited Solutions
- There is no widely accepted strategy that pharmacists have to help patients with low health literacy understand their medications.
- Current strategies used to help support low health literacy patients include ways to help the patient be structurally adherent, rather than understating their medications.
Cost of Low Health Literacy
- The estimated cost to the United States healthcare economy for low health literacy is $106 - $238 billion annually.
- This total cost represents between 7-17% of all U.S. healthcare expenditures.
- On average, an inpatient hospital stay for a patient with low health literacy costs $993 more than other patients.