Health ABCs reduce hospitalizations

EMORY (US) — Being able to read and understand medical terms may keep a patient with heart failure out of the hospital.

Rapid Estimates of Adults Literacy in Medicine (REALM-R), is a word recognition test designed to assist medical professionals in identifying patients at risk for poor literacy skills.

For the test, which takes less than two minutes to administer and score, adults are asked to de-code or pronounce a short list of words.

“This study lends more insight about the importance of health literacy and the impact it has on a patient’s participation in their care,” says Javed Butler, professor of medicine at Emory University, who also serves as the deputy chief science advisor for the American Heart Association.

“We learned that below optimal health literacy is driven by low socioeconomic status and is associated with increased admission rates in patients with heart failure.”

Researchers administered the REALM-R test to 154 heart failure outpatients from January 2008 to July 2009. People with a score of 60 or lower (considered low or marginal) had a 55 percent higher rate of hospitalization for any reason.

Among the patients, 30 had a low REALM-R score. Those with an annual family income less than $50,000, African-Americans, and people without a college-level education were much more likely to have a low REALM-R score (ten-fold, five-fold and five-fold, respectively).

Gender was not linked to REALM-R score and what doctors call “hard events” (death, urgent cardiac transplantation, or ventricular assist device implantation) also did not increase based on low REALM-R score.

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