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Patients' Bill of Rights Too Tough to Read
Date:3/27/2009

Analysis shows most documents require reading skills beyond those of general population

FRIDAY, March 27 (HealthDay News) -- This one should come as no surprise to most consumers: A patient's bill of rights, the document that outlines your expectations for medical care, is usually written in language so dense and crammed with legalese that you need college-level reading skills to understand it.

That's the crux of a new analysis, which also points out that the average American reads at an eighth-grade level.

The problem is highlighted in the report, recently published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine, with two striking examples:

For the Right to Know Names of Providers, there is this: "Upon request, to obtain from the facility in charge of his care the name and specialty, if any, of the physician or other person responsible for his care or the coordination of his care."

Simply translated into an eighth-grade reading level, this should say: "Tell you the names and roles of the people caring for you."

For the Right to See Bill, there is this: "Every such patient or resident of said facility in which billing for service is applicable to such patient or resident, upon reasonable request, shall receive from a person designated by the facility an itemized bill reflecting laboratory charges, pharmaceutical charges, and third-party credits and shall be allowed to examine an explanation of said bill regardless of the source of payment. This information shall also be made available to the patient's attending physician."

And, at eighth-grade level, it could simply say: "Show you your bill and explain it to you, no matter how it is paid."

"This is a significant problem," said J. Douglas Storey, associate director of Communication Science & Research at The Health Communication Partnership, part of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Balt
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