Tips for improving your health literacy

Improving health literacy

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - The doctor says one thing and the patient hears another.

For example, a patient taking blood pressure medicine calls the doctor in a panic because it isn’t bringing his blood pressure down. But the medication takes 2-3 months to work. Or, a patient is at the doctor in a panic because of a headache. She has a family history of brain tumors, but doesn’t tell the doctor who could easily assure her the headache is not a tumor.

Some misunderstandings are harmless, others can affect a patient’s health.

“Health Literacy” is the ability to read, understand and act upon health information. There is actually a significant gap between the way health care issues are communicated and the ability of most people to understand them.

Studies have linked poor health literacy, which disproportionately affects the elderly, the poor and recent immigrants, to higher rates of hospital readmission, expensive and unnecessary complications, and even death. A 2007 study estimated the problem cost the U.S. economy as much as $238 billion annually.

Here are a few questions and tips patients can use to improve communication with their doctor.

• Before you leave for your appointment make a list of your symptoms and when they started. Bring a list of your current medications/dosages, write down your questions, and bring paper to take notes.
• Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to use familiar language and write down their information.
• Be honest with your doctor about your habits, health history and fears. In many cases the doctor can ease fears with a simple test.
• Ask questions if something is not clear. Let the health care person know if what they are telling you is confusing in any way. Ask for written materials written in plain language.
• Make sure you know who to call with any questions you may have after you get home. Do not hesitate to call with questions you are not “bothering the doctor.”
• Repeat information back to your doctor or nurse.
• Bring all your medicines to your next doctor's visit.
• Have another adult with you.
• Let the doctor's office know you need an interpreter if you don't speak or understand English very well. ...
• Make a Pill Card, or a document that lists all the medications you take AND the dosages. Keep this in your purse or wallet so it is handy for all appointments.

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The Urgency Room is a concept unlike any other. Owned and operated by Emergency Physicians Professional Association (EPPA), it’s a place where infants, children, and adults can go to get outstanding medical treatment and phenomenal patient care. We pride ourselves in the quality of care and experience our patients receive.

The Urgency Room is open from 8:00 AM–10:00 PM, 365 days a year. Staffed with ER physicians and highly skilled medical professionals, the UR can treat an extensive list of ailments and injuries, quickly and efficiently. Visit The Urgency Room in Eagan, Vadnais Heights or Woodbury, you’ll get in fast, receive expert medical care and an amazing patient experience. Learn more at: www.urgencyroom.com.


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