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New Health Literacy Strategy Probes Ways To Minimize Gap Between Socioeconomic Levels

HSS study examines effectiveness of underutilized waiting rooms

New York, NY—June 15, 2016

Low health literacy is associated with poor health outcomes and is most likely to affect patients with low socioeconomic status and public health insurance. With limited internet access no longer a barrier, a new digital divide exists where patients of varying socioeconomic levels use different search terms when looking up medical information online.

"Patient education is vitally important for a variety of reasons," said Dr. Aaron Daluiski, hand and upper extremity surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). "An informed patient asks the right questions and is more likely to follow through on self-care after they leave the physician office."

A new study from HSS set out to determine if it’s possible to effectively drive patients to patient information websites through passive means, regardless of their socioeconomic status. The study took an underutilized resource, the patient waiting room, and put up identical posters in one room that only treats privately insured and another room that only treats publically insured (includes Medicaid and non-paying patients).

A higher percentage of public patients accessed the website shown on the poster in the waiting room versus private patients (7.7 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively). 89 percent of all patients who accessed used a computer as opposed to a smartphone, suggesting a delayed action.

While patients with public insurance are at higher risk for obtaining low quality information, there is a big opportunity for physicians to provide them with verified online sources while in their own offices as they are more likely to access the sites.

"Using posters in a waiting room to drive patients to a website may not be the most effective method as the wall-to-web link proved to be a bit of a stretch," said Dr. Daluiski, the lead investigator. "However, this study revealed that publically insured patients are seeking online medical information and are open to physician direction, which will ultimately lead them to higher health literacy and stronger health outcomes."



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