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To the Editor The research findings by Wegwarth and Gigerenzer1 is a sober reminder of the need for better communication between clinicians and patients about the appropriateness of testing and interpretation of results. The inquiries of health literacy have demonstrated poor health outcome when there is a mismatch between patient skills required for the interpretation of health information and the demands clinicians and the health care system imposed on patients.2 When demands exceed the requisite skills, patients may feel overwhelmed and retreat into silence or stop actively participating in their own care. Health literacy is not limited to just the fundamental skills of reading, writing, speaking, and numeracy and simplifying the health information, although these can be part of it. It is a continuum of multidimensional skill sets of competencies acquired over a lifetime that allows an individual to access, participate in, and make informed decisions that directly and indirectly affect health. Studies have shown that even those who have high fundamental literacy skills have poor health literacy and that up to half of US adults are not able to effectively use written material to accomplish health-related tasks.3
Yeh JS. Improving Evidence-Based Practices Through Health Literacy. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(8):1413. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.847