As more providers are adopting EHR systems, there’s an increasing number of patients who can access their medical information online. However, some patients don’t have the proper tools to understand the data.
According to researchers at the University of Michigan’s schools of Public Health and Medicine, people with low comprehension of numerical concepts and low literacy skills were less than 50% as likely to understand whether a result was inside or outside the reference ranges. They were also less likely to understand the data well enough to make an informed decision to call their doctor.
The university study used an Internet survey of 1,800 adults between the ages of 40 and 70. About half of those surveyed had Type 2 diabetes. However, all participants were asked to respond as if they had the disease.
The participants were tested on their numeracy and health literacy skills. They were shown displays for various blood tests, including hemoglobin A1c, which is commonly measured to check blood sugar levels.
While 77% of those considered having higher numeracy and literacy skills could identify levels outside of the normal range, only 38% of those with lower numeracy and literacy scores were able to do so. Participants with higher numeracy and literacy scores were also more proactive when it came to calling their doctor.
In order to make results easier to understand, a new, more intuitive format may be needed for future systems. Research needs to continue in order to determine how best to display this information. By designing more meaningful ways of presenting test results, people with low numeracy or literacy skills can take a more active role in managing their own healthcare.
Author: Lauren Daniels