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What can health-care facilities do to help patients better understand medical information
Date:9/15/2010

COLUMBIA, Mo. Studies show that nearly half of all Americans have difficulty understanding health information. Confusing medical directions, such as dosage and timing of prescription medicine, can lead to serious consequences including health setbacks, inappropriate hospital admissions and, sometimes, death. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Health Professions are examining what health care facilities can do to increase patient understanding and positive outcomes.

Diane Smith, an assistant professor in MU's Department of Occupational Therapy and a collaborator with the University of Missouri's Center for Health Policy, and four occupational therapy graduate students conducted a pilot study focusing on the "health literacy environment" of two health care facilities. "Health literacy" is defined as a patient's ability to understand the health information provided to them by health professionals. The study focused on ease of navigation, including use of signage, facility maps and verbal & written communication.

"Our study is directed toward the provider making health information easier to understand for the client," said Smith, who is the interim chair of the occupational therapy department. "If patients can understand information better, they are going to be more compliant with medical direction. If they are more compliant, they are more likely to get better outcomes."

The study examined a rehabilitation facility and an independent senior-living facility. Although both facilities exhibited many strong points, both had areas in need of improvement. At the independent living facility, paperwork was written at a college-sophomore reading level. Previous studies have recommended that medical information be written at a fifth to eighth-grade reading level. Another common health literacy issue is clear oral communication between health care professionals and patients. At the rehabilitation facility, health care profe
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Contact: Christian Basi
BasiC@missouri.edu
573-882-4430
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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