Health education information incomprehensible to many; HHS program to rate EHR-linked education materials for “understandability”

Health education materials provided to health care consumers until now have commonly assumed a fairly high level of “health literacy” – a level which, research has shown, makes the materials inaccessible to about 77 million people.  HHS’ new program addressing this issue begins with the development of a system to rate health information as efforts are made to improve the quality of these materials.

Via Modern Healthcare:

HHS’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is developing a rating system for the growing amount of health information directed at patients.

The agency’s Health Information Rating System, discussed in a Federal Register posting, will focus especially on patient data provided by electronic health records.

The agency’s notice stated that health education materials delivered by EHRs “are rarely written in a way that is understandable and actionable for patients with basic or below basic health literacy,” which includes about 77 million people. “Persons with limited health literacy face numerous healthcare challenges,” according to the AHRQ notice. “They often have a poor understanding of basic medical vocabulary and healthcare concepts.”

Agency officials expect the rating system to address that challenge by giving clinicians a method to determine the quality of the data their systems provide or that such resources are even available.

A draft version of the rating system was applied by researchers at AHRQ to sample education materials on asthma and colonoscopy and indicated some of the material had “low understandability or low actionability.” The agency plans to next use consumer panels to test the accuracy of the rating system.

Other related health literature activities planned by AHRQ includes creating a library of patient health education materials, a review of EHR’s patient education capabilities and education of EHR vendors and users.

By Rich Daly

AHRQ developing consumer info rating system,” Modern Healthcare (October 8, 2012)

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