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Health Literacy Month: The Need for Medical Knowledge

Have you found yourself up late at night, feeling sick and searching on the internet what the best home remedy is for your symptoms? If yes, you know how difficult it is navigating health information and understanding what the best choice is for your health. Even a simple yearly check-up can be a daunting task when trying to follow the terminology used by the doctor and the directions given for a newly prescribed medication. According to the AHIMA Foundation report, 62% of Americans are not sure they understand their doctor’s advice and the health information discussed during a visit, and 24% say they don’t comprehend any of it. Without advocating for health literacy for all patients, how will they have the ability to understand and analyze health information to exercise good judgment when managing their health?

For more than 20 years, October has been recognized as Health Literacy Month. It marks a time for individuals and organizations worldwide to raise awareness about the importance of making health information easy to understand. Today, it is increasingly accepted that health literacy is not a set of skills that everyone has. Instead, it is a complex concept impacted by how healthcare systems operate, how patients interpret health information, and how healthcare professionals convey information to patients. Enabling health literacy is about offering patients easy to read and understandable health information that is to the point and all-inclusive.

Health literacy is important when it comes to medical treatment for illnesses. As most people age, they are at an increased risk for more chronic medical conditions and will likely require more medications. With every new chronic medical condition and every new medication prescribed, they are expected to fully comprehend their disease state and potential medication side effects. Even the most common disease states might confuse a patient, such as Type 1 vs Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, etc. It is vital for providers to understand this gap in literacy and take time and patience to provide the best assistance and care.

Medication adherence is a huge key factor to the therapy of chronic diseases in older adults. Inadequate health literacy can result in poor health outcomes. This can include taking your medication not frequently enough, taking it too much, or even storing it incorrectly. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy skills. This means that more than a third of American adults struggle with following directions on a prescription label or understanding the directions given by a doctor. As a result, poor adherence can lead to higher rates of hospital admission, suboptimal health outcomes, increased mortality and morbidity, and overall higher healthcare costs. So, what clinicians say does not matter unless patients are able to understand the information given to them well enough to implement it to make sound decisions with their health.

Even caregivers can face special issues with health literacy. For patients and caregivers, communication breaks down while they are with a healthcare provider. However, most caregivers have concerns about their loved ones’ ability to manage their own health. Although they believe that doctors provide enough information, 38% don’t believe a doctor can communicate effectively with the patient if the caregiver is not present. In addition, 43% of caretakers do not think their loved ones can understand medical information on their own ( This inability to have a satisfactory visit with a provider means that many patients and caregivers leave their appointments without clear answers and possibly even more questions and uncertainty than before. In fact, key findings from the AHIMA Foundation found that a majority of Americans don’t fully grasp the information discussed with their doctor and that they trust the internet to strengthen their grasp on their health.

At, we believe that health literacy plays an important role in every aspect of a patient’s health and wellbeing. We cannot address prevention and treatment if our patients do not understand what we are trying to explain to them. With our pharmacist-led virtual medication management service, patients are able to take better control of their health. Our platform is easy to understand and user friendly, making the management of multiple medications a simplified process for caretakers and patients alike. The service provides simple medication instructions, reminders, safety checks, and clinical decision support under the supervision of qualified pharmacists. strives to provide patients with the tools needed to increase health literacy proficiency and medication compliance, minimize hospitalizations, and improve the overall quality of life of the patient regardless of the condition or disease state.

Health literacy is an important skill that many Americans lack. Identifying the gap in health literacy between patients and healthcare providers is essential in making sure to provide the best treatment for patients. Pharmacists play a critical role in ensuring patients are adherent to their medications and fully understand how to take them. This month, it is important to emphasize the crucial role that health literacy plays in prevention and treatment of illnesses.


About the author:

Jennah Worthington is a Brand Ambassador Intern for and is a senior studying Healthcare & Business at Butler University. She has a passion for the pharmaceutical industry and gaining a deeper understanding of the roles of health providers, insurers, and administrators. She strives to help find ways to increase accessibility in various areas of healthcare. Jennah resides in Indianapolis and enjoys going on walks with her Dalmatian.

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