…and your ability to interpret and apply it.
Bryan Vartabedian, MD‘s post today is quite relevant to those of us who frequently talk about the intersection of health care and social media. His achnowledgment of the fact that 80% of patients search for health care information online is no longer news rings true for many. We’ve known these facts for years thanks to the work of the Pew Internet Group and @SusannahFox.
The real issue that patients face when searching for information online pertains to the :
- Quality of the information they are receiving.
- Health Literacy: Their ability to interpret and incorporate the content or information they are reading.
A simple google search on many medical conditions reveals the issue of quality. Most of the top search results are commercially biased (at best), mis-leading and occasionally even harmful.
Many physicians, such as Wendy Sue Swanson , Ves Dimov and many many others are trying hard to change the quality of the information available online to patients and interested parties. Val Jones has started a project called HealthyRT to call attention to the poor quality of health information available online, and allow a number of physicians (me included ) to help vet information sources and hopefully give patients a place to start in their search for quality health information. Along the same lines, I have also started a page on my website called Social Health, Social Help for the same reason.
Health literacy is a huge issue. ”*Even basic literacy is an issue we face in the world today. Health literacy varies by context and setting and is not necessarily related to years of education or general reading ability. A person who functions adequately at home or work may have marginal or inadequate literacy in a health care environment*”. According to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality Report, Literacy and Health Outcomes (January 2004) —low health literacy is linked to higher rates of hospitalization and higher use of expensive emergency services. This evidence-based literature review highlights numerous studies that provide a detailed analysis of the correlation between low health literacy and poor health.
Health literacy will NOT be an easy issue to deal with.
Physicians and other health care professionals need to be cognizant of this issue and try their best to present the information or the content they develop or curate in an *easy to read* manner which enables and/or empowers the individual trying to understand what all this information means .