In the news for nurses this week is a look at a study coming out of the Columbia University School of Nursing that was recently published in the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. It looked at patients with pacemakers and defibrillators implanted and attempted to ascertain their level of understanding of their conditions and how the devices implanted in their bodies work.

Patient Health Literacy Key to Better Outcomes

Frustrated patient - health literacyThis study looks at patient’s health literacy. Health Literacy is defined at Health.gov as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions. It’s affected by many things including basic communications skills the patient has, their general knowledge of health topics, their underlying culture and more.

As you can imagine this affects their ability to navigate the healthcare system including filling out forms, finding healthcare services. It also impacts the ways they communicate with healthcare professionals especially the information they think is important for you to know or not. A person with low health literacy is less likely to follow post care instructions properly, be able to do things like calculate their blood sugar levels, or read nutrition labels.

40% of Patients Fail To Understand Treatments

The study from Columbia University found that nearly 40% of the patients with implanted cardiac devices have no clue as to what is going on in their chests. This underlines problems that likely exist among many groups of patients we encounter. Whenever we encounter patients, we need to treat it as a chance to teach them and raise their health literacy level.

The CDC says that poor health literacy leads to poorer health outcomes, longer hospital stays, increased ER visits and home medication errors. Work on improving your health education techniques with patients and learning to improve their health literacy.

Make sure you follow-up on the links for this news item and all of the other news and additional resource links from this week’s episode – Guide to Flu Season, Vaccines and Episode 320.

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