Do Patients Understand?
Suzanne Graham, RN, PhD; John Brookey, MD
Summer 2008 - Volume 12 Number 3
Communication barriers often go undetected in health care settings and can have serious effects on the health and safety of patients. Limited literacy skills are one of the strongest predictors of poor health outcomes for patients.1,2 Studies have shown that when patients have low reading fluency, they know less about their chronic diseases, they are worse at managing their care,3 and they are less likely to take preventive measures for their health.4 However, patients do not need to have limited literacy skills to have low health literacy. The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy 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."5