ProHealth Insight is a resource for achieving health literacy. With proper use it can promote improved health and better healthcare experiences and outcomes. Health literacy is the ability to obtain, process, understand and utilize basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions. It is part and parcel of patient engagement, patient adherence, and effective communication in health care.
The relationship between a patient and physician is like a marriage in some respects. The rewards are greater for both when there is mutual participation and meaningful dialogue. Imagine how futile a marriage is when one spouse is completely active and the other totally passive with regard to many aspects of the relationship.
Patient engagement is appropriate involvement in one’s health care in conjunction with the healthcare provider(s). It serves to improve well-being; prevent disease; produce favorable outcomes to medical treatment; and achieve progress in meeting mutually agreed-upon goals. It also promotes patient adherence.
Patient adherence is the extent to which patients follow or stick to treatment instructions. It is not the same as patient compliance. Patient compliance implies a passive blind subservient obedience to a doctor’s strict authoritarian instructions. Patient adherence is the active and willing participation in one’s care in harmony with the treatment plan and recommendations of the healthcare provider(s). It consists of a mutual agreement and understanding of the treatment rationale and goals.
To achieve that mutual agreement and understanding that goes along with patient adherence and patient engagement, patients need basic knowledge of how the healthcare system works; changes that are occurring within it; and basic knowledge of their medical condition(s).
Understanding the healthcare system is most important because the industry is changing more drastically than it ever has. Many of the changes pertain to access to care, the manner in which patients receive care, and the type of care that is available. Both government and health insurance companies enforce regulations that impact health care. Thus, learning about existing and new rules and trends pertaining to health care is an important ingredient of health literacy.
Basic knowledge of one’s medical condition(s) is an important part of health literacy because it impacts understanding various aspects of treatment and communication in healthcare. It is not necessary to become as knowledgeable as a doctor or nurse, but it certainly helps in terms of conveying meaningful information to them and understanding what they convey.
Knowledge of the signs and symptoms of certain diseases can be a key to patients providing physicians with relevant and quality information necessary for making timely diagnoses and providing correct treatment that is cost-effective. The same type of knowledge might also prompt patients to ask the doctor a related question, which leads to the early detection or prevention of a disease or complication(s).
According to a report by the American Medical Association a few years ago, health literacy is a stronger predictor of a person’s state of health than is education, income, employment status, age, or race. This will almost certainly be ever so the case in this age of healthcare reform with is emphasis on such tenets as patient engagement, shared decision-making and patient-centered care.
ProHealth insight is not dedicated to providing knowledge alone, but understanding also and the ability to wisely utilize both. After all, in the words of Albert Einstein – “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” Knowledge tempered with understanding is the key.