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Physicians Encourage Patients to Seek Resources to Improve Health Literacy

Physicians, Health Care Organizations and Online Tools Help Patients Hone Their Medical Knowledge

DAYTON, Ohio (January 23, 2012) – The start of the new year marks a time for making resolutions. Although many health-related resolutions focus on diet and exercise, Premier HealthNet is encouraging patients to strive to improve their overall health literacy in 2012. Now, more than ever, this goal is achievable thanks to a variety of resources available to the public to help them increase knowledge and understanding of their own health care.

Health literacy impacts all aspects of a person’s health care and is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the degree to which individuals are able to obtain and understand the information and services needed to make appropriate decisions regarding their health care. From the ability to understand a physician’s directions, consent forms and dosage instructions and knowing what questions to ask, to being able to communicate symptoms and health concerns accurately and effectively, health literacy impacts a person’s health care in a variety of ways. Health literacy is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing chronic conditions and preventing potential health issues from developing.

“Routine physicals give physicians the chance to do more preventive care practices, including screenings, vaccines and other health maintenance,” said Dr. Christopher Aviles of Beavercreek Family Physicians. “During an annual physical, physicians also have the chance to connect and develop relationships with their patients and, in turn, patients can voice concerns and ask their primary care physician specific questions to help them gain a better understanding of their health care, which improves their overall health literacy in the process.”

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly nine out of 10 adult Americans find it difficult to use everyday health information. To combat this fact, many organizations offer free literature and tools that individuals can use to help them make decisions about their health care. For example, the Premier HealthNet website, www.premierhealthnet.com, provides resources that help patients make sense of medical information, know the right questions to ask and the important information to share with their physicians, including warning signs and symptoms, medication information and family history. Additionally, patients of Premier Health Partners (PHP) have access to MyChart, a branch of PHP’s electronic medical records system that allows patients to access their own medical records via the Internet.

“Through a simple conversation with a patient, we can address existing health concerns, identify potential risk factors, including family history, and recommend healthy habits to prevent further development of chronic conditions,” said Aviles. “I like to build a good connection with patients in order to deliver the best health care possible and promote health literacy—I look at health care as a team approach and I’m just a partner in my patients’ health and well-being.”

In addition to information provided to the public by health care professionals and organizations, there have been initiatives and movements to improve health literacy on both state and nationwide levels. For example, the National Action Plan to Improve Health Literacy is a multi-sector effort to improve health literacy on a national level, while in Ohio, the Ohio Collaborative for Clear Health Communication (OCCHC) works to improve health literacy statewide, all with the intent of making health care information accessible and understandable for the public.

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