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Health Literacy Cuts Costs, Increases Well-Being
Tuesday, April 06, 2010 | Sarah Dietze

Fifty-eight year old cancer patient Marty found himself drowning in a “scary sea of medical jargon” after a cancer diagnosis. He describes himself as well-educated, but struggled to understand his diagnosis and treatment.

Health literacy is defined as “The degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information, and services needed to make appropriate decisions.”

Low health literacy costs taxpayers $3.3 -$7.3 billion each year - in Missouri alone. Nationwide, that figure approaches $240 billion.

In response, Dr. Ingrid Taylor of Allies in Healthcare developed a workbook called My Health Companion. MantyTV stated that demand for My Health Companion has skyrocketed. Dr. Taylor's clients report writing down more information during an appointment, exploring medical terms, and being more assertive in communicating with their doctor.

“If you don’t follow a health plan, your chronic illness just festers and gets bigger.” Dr. Taylor said.

Marty survived his bout with cancer, but wishes he and his doctors had paid more attention to details: “Everything I went through would have been preventable. Maybe I should have been more agressive or maybe I should have questioned…but I thought they knew.”

Understanding medical jargon can go a long way toward increasing your knowledge of health issues. Check out myPHR’s glossary for definitions of common medical and insurance terms.

Get started with a paper-based PHR similar to My Health Companion. Download and child and adult PHR forms, in English or Spanish.

Watch the complete Health Literacy Missouri video on YouTube.

Tags   personalhealthrecord, phr, healthinformation, insurance, chronicallyill, healthliteracy

About This Blog

PHRs are still fairly new to the healthcare system, and we understand that as healthcare consumers, you have questions about the benefits and risks of keeping a PHR. For this reason, we provide a communication forum – the Seniors’ Blog – to connect you with health information management professionals for tips and advice on creating and maintaining your own PHR. This section of also provides resources and educational material about PHRs to answer some of your questions and help you determine if a PHR is right for you.

Blog Contributors

Marsha Dolan, Valerie Watzlaf, Cindy Boester, Heidi Shaffer, Julie Wolter, Margaret Hennings, Colleen Goethals, Vera Rulon, Leah Grebner, Robert Caban, Mynilma Olivera-Vazquez, Amanda Bushey, Margie Kelly, Donna DuLong, Sarah Dietze, Valisha McFarlane, Maria Kovell, Ted Eytan, Leann Reynolds, Laura Heuer, Kristin Stewart, Derek Allen, Chris Matthies, Margo Corbett, Craig Newmark, Sarah Buelterman, Skyler Tanner, Aniruddha Malpani, Joan Malling, Marilyn McFarlane, Megan Rooney, Patrick Rhone, Dr. Carrie Nelson, Maria Bouselli, Erin Jordan


PHRs do more than manage medication. Stay up to date with information that can help you communicate with your doctor and stay out of the hospital.

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