In Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion, the Institute of Medicine reports that 90 million people in the U.S., nearly half the population, have difficulty understanding and using health information. As a result, patients often take medicines on the wrong schedule, miss follow up appointments and do not understand instructions like "take on an empty stomach."
What can be done to improve communication and understanding of health care information? The American Medical Association Foundation offers these six tips to get the most from your doctor's visit:
1. Write down questions. Prepare a list of questions to ask your doctor and bring it with you to your visit.
2. Bring your medicines. Each time you visit any health care provider, bring all of the prescription and over-the - counter medicines you are taking. Examples include vitamins, minerals and herbal preparations.
3. Bring a friend or family member. He or she can help you write down and remember what the doctor says. You can refer to these notes later at home.
4. Report changes. Tell your doctor about any new or different symptoms you are having.
5. Ask questions. Doctors and their staff want you to understand your condition and learn how to manage it. Before you leave your doctor's office, make sure you understand what the doctor has told you.
6. Follow up. If you have any questions about your doctor visit when you get home, call the office. They are there to help you.
Bartlett's new Health Education Resource Center is another way for you to get more information and understanding about your health and health care concerns, including many common surgical procedures.
Opening in November, it will have an easy-to-use Patient Education Program called X-Plain. Hundreds of topics can be accessed by the use of a touch screen similar to an ATM machine so no computer skills are necessary. Once you select your topic you will have a 15-minute lesson to help explain your health care issues so, even if you have difficulty reading, you will be able to learn with this program. If you have a computer at home you can also access this resource through the Bartletthospital.org web site. In addition to the programs, this system will allow you to print a summary of what you have just learned for future reference or to share with your family.
The more you understand the better you will be able to take care of yourself and your health care needs.
If you are interested in searching the web for health information here are some websites you can trust.
The National Library of Medicine's site can be depended on for accurate and current medical information. This service provides access to extensive information about specific diseases and conditions and has links to consumer health information from the National Institutes of Health.
Healthfinder directs you to selected online publications, clearinghouses, databases, web sites, and support and self-help groups, as well as the government agencies and not for profit organizations that produce reliable information for the public.
From the American Academy of Family Physicians, this site offers patient education documents for common medical concerns and conditions. The information is regularly reviewed and updated.
Created by the pediatric medical experts form children's health facilities nationwide, KidsHealth provides up to date information about growth, food and fitness, childhood infections, immunizations, medical and surgical conditions and the latest treatments.
Site provides a database for health related resources for Native Americans and Alaska Natives and news articles and features about health and wellness issues.
For a more comprehensive list of reliable web sites visit the Health Education Resource Center at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
Judy Cernobyl is a registered nurse and serves as the Patient Education Coordinator at Bartlett Regional Hospital.