A recent study by the UnitedHealth Group proved (once again) that improving health literacy has a significant impact on improving patient outcomes.
Here’s a quick rundown of the study’s process and findings.1
The study focused on the US elderly population enrolled in Medicare. First, the researchers estimated population literacy levels using the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy results. Next, the researchers ranked each county based on its overall health literacy level. Then, they identified the counties with the highest and lowest literacy levels and evaluated key health outcomes.
Here's how these groups were defined in the study:
High health literacy counties: Only 15-27% of the population is predicted to have below basic health literacy (limited health literacy)
Low health literacy counties: 36-59% of the population is predicted to have below basic health literacy
US counties with the highest levels of health literacy had:
31% more flu shots
26% fewer avoidable hospitalizations
18% fewer emergency department (ED) visits
13% lower costs per beneficiary
Now, how do these figures translate into the financial impact? If all counties had high health literacy levels, Medicare programs could save $25.4 billion a year.
That’s a number worth paying attention to! And remember, this study only accounted for Medicare programs. Imagine the potential savings if we improved health literacy across the entire adult population.
Why Does This Matter to You?
Improving health literacy has far-reaching positive impacts, from huge societal savings to increasing the number of available hospital beds amid a pandemic. Our healthcare system has many barriers, and it’s up to the industry to start removing them.
Leveling Health breaks down these walls by teaching patients, caregivers, and their loved ones the basics of their condition and providing actionable tips so they can navigate their journey.
UnitedHealth Group. Health Literacy Key to Better Health Outcomes. UnitedHealth Group. https://www.unitedhealthgroup.com/newsroom/research-reports/posts/health-literacy-research-462863.html. Published November 2, 2020. Accessed January 15, 2021.