- Just 12% of adults are proficient in health literacy, according to findings from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
- More than eight in 10 (82.1%) of adults in the United States had contact with a healthcare professional in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2012. For children, this figure was even higher at 92.8%.
"Patients bear some responsibility for their own medical care."
Asking the right questions
Although doing everything possible to help patients is part of a physician's job, patients also bear some responsibility for their own medical care, Weissman asserted. With this in mind, he listed three questions that patients should be sure to ask at every doctor's appointment:
- "What is my main problem?"
- "What do I need to do to address this problem?"
- "Why do I need to take this action?"
In a blog post for the Daily Trojan, a University of Southern California publication, USC student Francesca Mares-Do noted that research has revealed many patients don't understand the conditions from which they suffer. Mares-Do asserted that lack of proactivity on their part often contributes to their confusion.
"Ask the questions that need to be asked or clarify again just to make sure you understand," advised Mares-Do. "You might feel embarrassed for not understanding what the doctor said the first time, but you'll feel twice as foolish for leaving without ever knowing what he meant."