Health IT

Health literacy: Once we get our data, will we know what to do with it?

In looking at the healthcare data solutions that were all around him at HIMSS 2014 last week, Colin Hung asked the next logical question: It finally hit me when I was standing in a booth, watching yet another demonstration of a “patient engagement platform” that was little more than a viewer for lab results on […]

In looking at the healthcare data solutions that were all around him at HIMSS 2014 last week, Colin Hung asked the next logical question:

It finally hit me when I was standing in a booth, watching yet another demonstration of a “patient engagement platform” that was little more than a viewer for lab results on a mobile device. Providing patients with access to their health information is laudable. Finding ways to engage patients is noble. But what happens when they don’t understand the information that they are “engaging” with?

As I looked at the screen filled with lab results, I realized that I didn’t have a clue what the information was telling me. I had no idea whether the Complete Blood Counts (CBC) or Electrolytes meant the fictitious patient needed an immediate trip to the Emergency Room or a high-five for being so healthy. I am embarrassed to say that I feel I have very low health literacy.

Health literacy is the topic of this week’s #HCLDR tweet chat. Hung and Lisa Fields run the group, which gets together most Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.

How different HIMSS would look if improving health literacy was as hot and lucrative as health IT. Low health literacy contributes to our high healthcare costs, ranging from diabetes care to readmisisons to mental health in older adults.

Here are Hung’s ideas for improving health literacy:

  • IKEA-like instructions for patients
  • Translation/interpretation services for patients offered by employer health plans
  • Apps that “read” raw health data and present information in a simple, HUMAN way
  • Materials in multiple languages
  • Giving more time to providers to explain the details behind clinical decisions

These are the topics that the chat will cover. Get your ideas ready and tweet them to #hcldr tonight at 8:30.

  1. T1: What is the role of patients in health literacy? Providers? Gov’t?
  2. T2: What can we, as healthcare leaders, do to bring more attention to the issue of health literacy?
  3. T3: What technologies could be used to help improve health literacy?
  4. CT: What’s one thing you’ve learned tonight that you can take to your place of influence to help a patient tomorrow?

The group is definitely worth your time with great topics and thoughtful conversations. You can see tweets from past chats by following the #hcldr hash tag.