Building the Health-Literate Patient

December 28, 2016

You want informed patients. Patients want good healthcare outcomes. How can you engage the right patients to promote both goals?

The Digital Prescription

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A recent study confirms that health literacy—the ability to find, process, and understand health information— is strongly tied to healthcare technology aptitude. In other words, health literacy goes hand-in-hand with patient facility with consumer-centric healthcare information technology tools. That makes health literacy a self-reinforcing concept for today’s consumer.

Health literacy is also tied to better health outcomes. On the other hand, low health literacy is inversely related to use of preventive services and knowledge about medical conditions, and directly related to higher hospitalization rates, poor health status, and higher costs. Your organization wants more of the former and less of the latter.

What patients do (and learn) outside the doctor’s office is often more important than how they spend their brief time in the clinic. That’s where the next generation of digital health resources comes in.

Online resources and apps help consumers manage their health and make more informed healthcare decisions. This new breed of digital resources is all about helping patients help themselves—not by providing the largest universe of healthcare information, but by distilling it down to the most important and timely information. So consumers learn exactly what they need to know, when they need to know it.

Four Resource Examples

These four healthcare resources embody the new ethos of “right information, right time, right place”:

  1. Risk IQ: Last month, Healthgrades released a first-of-its-kind consumer risk assessment tool for six common surgical procedures. The Risk IQ Tool is an online resource that a) helps consumers assess their individual risk for mortality and complications, b) provides guidance for potentially modifiable risk factors, and c) offers distilled research information on hospital quality ratings and physician experience. It employs a step-by-step questionnaire and a color-coded risk continuum. Then it highlights top hospitals and providers for a given procedure by zip code. The Risk IQ Tool is available for the following procedures:
    • Knee replacement
    • Hip replacement
    • Pacemaker procedures
    • Coronary bypass surgery
    • Hysterectomy
    • Bariatric surgery
  2. Prescription Feedback: Iodine is a crowd-sourced website that allows patients to check prescribed medication side effects and usefulness with other users. Often, patients may not fill prescriptions or take prescribed medications because they aren’t sure whether they will be worth it. Iodine aggregates specific medication information by gender and age, so patients can seek out feedback from people most like them. This online resource does have some limitations, like not distinguishing between the best patient-rated medications for asthma control versus those that best treat asthma attacks. But it may be a helpful adjunct to your physicians’ patient education.
  3. First Aid On Demand: The Red Cross First Aid app guides consumers through common first aid scenarios, from asthma attacks to broken bones to burns. It also includes videos, interactive quizzes, and step-by-step advice to prepare for, learn about, and actually perform during a myriad of emergencies. It is a first aid class in an app, and helps to ensure that virtually any bystander can help during an emergency situation, merely by following the steps on a phone screen.
  4. Health App Prescriber: With an ever-expanding universe of health apps, how do your physicians choose effectively? Mt. Sinai recently addressed that question with the release of Rx Universe, a tool for physicians to prescribe curated mobile health apps for patients. Physicians can filter apps by medical evidence, FDA clearance, and other features. Links to selected apps are sent via text to the patient’s smartphone, and physicians can track whether the text messages were opened.

Help your patients manage their own health and make better decisions outside the doctor's office. Build health literacy with the next generation of digital health resources.

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