The capacity of each patient to understand and process the information on healthcare that would affect their formulation of decisions regarding their health is termed as healthcare literacy. Health care providers have a significant role in the health literacy of their clients.
These clients should be educated to a certain level that they will fully understand their disease condition and the treatment process they have to undergo in order to regain their good health and thereby reduce the costs of doing so (Brown, 2007).
The health care provider has this load on their shoulders but the patients themselves are the key player in their understanding of the matter. No matter how hard the health care personnel tries to explain to the client the disease condition he has if the client themselves lack the capacity to process the information given there will be no light to the situation.
This study will review related literature which supports the thesis on whether healthcare literacy actually decreases healthcare costs. This study also aims to establish that through healthcare literacy, the patient or the family of the patient would be able to decide better on healthcare and decrease amount spent. With several medicines that alleviate or treat disease conditions for the betterment of ones life, advance technology of the present time produces numerous medicines that treat diseases and disorders.
This technology does not come for free, and with the absence of the necessary literacy on healthcare and on institutions that provide healthcare support, patients are usually bound into spending more on healthcare in general.
Currently, in spite of the availability of several healthcare providers, patients undergoing therapy without adequate healthcare literacy do not guarantee that they will have a positive outcome and in turn spend out more. An essential factor that inhibits the treatment of these disease conditions is ones’ rigorous following and intake of the medications given which costs more than the usual healthcare services (Ownby, 2006).
According to the American Heart Association has the following statistics on healthcare literacy to prescribed medicines: “12% of Americans don’t fill their prescription at all; 12% of Americans don’t take medication at all after they fill the prescription; Almost 29% of Americans stop taking their medication before it runs out; and 22% of Americans take less of the medication than is prescribed on the label”(Foundation, 2006).
Today, correct intake of the prescribed medications is the number one problem of treating illness which usually leads to a higher cost in the provision of healthcare services. Failure of the patients to take the correct prescribed medications due to the absence of the necessary healthcare literacy results into 10% of all the admissions in the hospital (“Statistics on Medication,” 2007).
On the other hand, the World Health Organization defined healthcare literacy as “the extent to which a person’s behavior [in] taking medication…corresponds with agreed recommendations from a health care provider”.
The following are examples of non-adherence to medications due to the absence of healthcare literacy: aborting the medication therapy prematurely; wrong time intake of drug dose; taking someone else’s prescribed therapy; intake of expired and damaged medications; improper storage of drugs; improper use of medication devices; intake of prescribed drug along with prohibited foods, liquids, and other medicines; excess intake of medication dosage; failure to refill prescribed medication; omitting a dose or dosages; and not refilling prescribed medication as needed(Foundation, 2006).
Specifically, geriatric individuals have low levels of literacy. In the article of Murray et al. (2004), it was mentioned that among 3260 Medicare enrollees only 12% of the respondents grasped the appropriate medication dosage timing. Furthermore, the percentage of those who understood how to take medicine when the stomach is empty is only 12%. The trivial literacy in health of these individuals surely would affect their adherence to prescribed medications(Michael D. Murray, 2004).
Though the memory is the primary factor related to the failure of adherence to prescribed medications, health literacy and cognitive impairment plays a role in the complexity of the condition(Ownby, 2006).
Most cases of non-adherence to medications are observed in geriatric individuals because they are prone to developing forgetfulness or cognitive impairment; their ability to manage and administer medicines themselves decreases with age; often they fail to understand the essence of the medication in treating their disease condition; and their attitudes towards the treatment of their disease is quite different(Michael D. Murray, 2004).
Decreased adherence to medications includes the cognitive factors as the contributing causes of the problem. Forgetfulness, comprehension problems, and decreased literacy in health are examples of these cognitive impairments.
There are two types of memory failure: the retrospective memory failure, wherein the patient forgot the details he/she was advised regarding the medicine or whether they already took it; and the prospective memory failure wherein the patient forgets to take the prescribed drugs(Michael D. Murray, 2004).