Many dialysis patients may not understand important health information
Many patients on dialysis may not understand medical information critical to their wellbeing, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology. The results suggest that clinicians must understand and address the limited health literacy of patients with kidney disease.
Patients with limited health literacy—the ability to obtain, process, and understand health information in order to make appropriate health decisions—may not fully understand written medical information, may not be able to communicate effectively with health care providers, or navigate the increasingly complex health care system. Studies suggest that limited health literacy may negatively affect patients' wellbeing and increase health care costs.
Jamie Green, MD (University of Pittsburgh) and her colleagues tested 260 patients on long-term dialysis with a tool that assesses one's ability to read common medical words and lay terms for body parts and illnesses.
The investigators found that 16% of the patients on dialysis (41 of the 260 patients) had limited health literacy. While limited health literacy was present in all subgroups of patients, those with lower educational levels, African Americans, and veterans were less likely to effectively obtain and process relevant health information.
Patients with less than a high school education exhibited more than a 12-fold increased risk of low health literacy, and African Americans and veterans had more than a 3-fold increased risk of having limited health literacy. The researchers are currently following these individuals to determine if limited health literacy affects how patients adhere to dialysis treatment, whether they undergo kidney transplantation, and whether they die prematurely.
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