Essential Pittsburgh
4:02 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

The High Cost of Medical Illiteracy

When patients and health care providers don't communicate properly, the health and financial costs can be high
When patients and health care providers don't communicate properly, the health and financial costs can be high
Credit Andye / Flickr

Roughly 90% of Americans are medically illiterate to some degree, according to Kevin Progar, Project Manager of the Regional Health Literacy Coalition.

This low level is a costly problem for patients and healthcare providers. Consumers accept their doctor’s orders without asking for a second opinion or truly understanding what the doctor has said. In some cases patients take their medication incorrectly or do not take the prescribed medication at all (because they do not understand how to do so properly). Progar says $230 billion is wasted annually in the United States because of medical illiteracy. How can we fix this problem?

People need to become “engaged, empowered, and involved” when talking to their medical professionals says Reverend Sally Jo Snyder, Director of Advocacy and Consumer Engagement for the Consumer Health Coalition. Medical professionals can help patients understand their ability to take medications and the effects of the medication. Snyder also says that if people come in to an exam with a pen and paper, at least 3 questions, and the medication that they are currently taking, costly mistakes can be avoided.

An educational forum on Health Literacy takes place Wednesday October 16, 2013 at 8 AM in the University of Pittsburgh University Club. For more information visit the Regional Health Literacy Coalition’s current website at www.iop.pitt.edu/healthliteracy. A more comprehensive website will be launched later in the month.