Health Illiteracy Among Factors Driving Up Health Care Costs

Mar 22, 2012

LEXINGON, Ky. - Of the problems facing the nation's health care system, one rarely discussed factor helping up drive up costs is something called "health illiteracy." 

Like many health care-related issues, it’s a problem that affects not just patients but medical professionals.

"You could have a PhD and be very health illiterate," says Deborah Murray, associate director of the Health Education Though Extension Leadership program and organizer of a Health Literacy Summit taking place in Lexington.

Murray says doctors can be properly trained, given the right equipment, and access to medication, but none of that means much if physicians aren’t using clear language and patients aren’t following doctors’ orders. Fixing that might mean…

"..using a lot of pictures to show what you're talking about, avoiding the mumbo jumbo that means nothing to the patient," she says.

A Health Literacy Resources Guide compiled for a library network that supports the VA Health System estimates that health illiteracy accounts for $50 to $73 billion dollars in health care spending nationally every year. The summit currently being hosted in Lexington aims to provide health care professionals and local leaders with strategies to increase health literacy. It ends March 23nd.