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How a Focus on Health Literacy Can Improve Patient Adherence and Health Outcomes

How a Focus on Health Literacy Can Improve Patient Adherence and Health Outcomes

Imagine you’re in a physician’s office and you’ve just received a diagnosis for your health symptoms. The doctor explains your condition, describes the course of treatment, and sends you off with a prescription for medication or other therapy.  

How clearly you understand this information—and how well you will benefit from the prescribed treatment—depends a great deal on your health literacy. And the reality is, patients generally forget 40-80% of medical information provided by their doctor immediately after their appointment.  

Beyond simply remembering information, in order to achieve optimal health outcomes, it’s important that these individuals truly understand what they are being told, so they’re able to act on it appropriately and put it into context in their daily lives.  

The Facts on Health Literacy 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define two types of health literacy, each equally important to patient adherence and eventual health outcomes. 

Personal health literacy is defined as the degree to which individuals can find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others. Organizational health literacy has the same goals, but focuses on the degree to which organizations equitably enable them. The CDC’s emphasis on both types of literacy underscores the fact that this vital competency requires a two-way street, bridging the gap between what physicians know and what patients understand and can act on.  

In the United States, only 12% of individuals are considered proficient in their health literacy skills. That means they have a sufficient level of health literacy to navigate the health system, engage in medical discussions, and fully participate in managing their health. 

What it Means for Health Outcomes 

When patients have limited ability to understand and use information to make health-related decisions, they’re more likely to act in ways that unwittingly jeopardize their health outcomes, such as:  

  • Putting off visiting a physician to discuss new health symptoms  
  • Missing follow-up visits with physicians and other providers 
  • Failing to stay on therapy for the prescribed amount of time 
  • Not taking the proper medication dosage 
  • Using a self-administered therapy incorrectly  
  • Failing to monitor and self-manage chronic conditions 
  • Not tracking side effects or reporting them to the prescribing physician  

When a patient’s health literacy level results in actions like these, they’re more likely to visit emergency rooms, require hospitalization, experience a continued progression of their disease, pay higher out-of-pocket costs for their healthcare, and even suffer higher mortality rates. 

How Can We Improve Health Literacy? 

Across 101 studies, health literacy interventions were found to have a significant, positive correlation with patient adherence, which improves health outcomes. At CareMetx, we believe tackling the multi-faceted issue of patient nonadherence is best accomplished by combining high-tech and high-touch solutions that are designed to first understand the barriers keeping an individual patient from starting or staying on therapy, then to remove those barriers as obstacles to strong health outcomes.    

To accomplish this, CareMetx applies our personalized services and technology platform to ensure patients are knowledgeable about their disease and prescribed specialty treatment— equipping them to make informed decisions that boost adherence and improve outcomes. 

However, improving health literacy isn’t just about providing more information; after all, there is no lack of data sources today. CareMetx focuses on providing knowledge in ways that help patients understand, absorb, retain, and use it for the benefit of their health—adapting and personalizing the experience all along the way.  

Through support programs designed to help patients initiate and adhere to therapy, our case managers work with patients one-on-one to gauge their health literacy, identify literacy and adherence barriers, and use strategies and interventions best suited to the individual. 

For example: 

  • While they always strive to use plain language, CareMetx might find we need to further adjust language when speaking with patients to ensure they can comprehend the concepts discussed.  
  • We provide information using a variety of tools and formats—such as secure phone, text, chats, and videos—to connect with each patient in a meaningful and effective way. 
  • We use strategies like the teach-back method, in which a patient is asked to state back what the case manager just explained, to confirm understanding. 

The Role of Technology in Health Literacy and Outcomes 

To complement this personalized approach to health literacy interventions, CareMetx uses a powerful tool that connects all our patient-centric channels: the Resilix platform 

Resilix enables us to configure a technology platform that best supports each pharmaceutical manufacturer’s needs and objectives. Whether a manufacturer chooses a digital-only program (where pre-set interventions happen entirely electronically) or opt to have a CareMetx nurse or case manager customize the delivery of information to each patient based on their conversations, Resilix automates and streamlines the process for a better patient experience. 

Resilix also supports delivering an adherence barrier assessment upon the first interaction with a new patient. This approach helps our team customize the type and cadence of future communications and interventions, to ensure patients understand and can use the information to make the best decisions about their healthcare. 

Contact CareMetx to learn how we’re combining radically efficient technology with personalized services to boost health literacy and adherence to specialty therapies. 


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