Finding the time to develop a thorough understanding of our personal finances and gaining a financial literacy is something we all strive for. Having it can provide us with a lifetime of cost savings and financial benefits. Although we take our finances seriously, many of us fail to consider one of the greatest tools in saving ourselves money, time, and a great deal of pain: our health literacy.
After an accident, our greatest concern tends to be limiting our short term expenditures and getting back on our feet quickly. Although this makes sense and is important, our rush to get back to work can limit our comprehension of the doctor’s treatment plan which result in severe consequences further down the road. We often don’t think critically about the financial impacts of understanding our health, but they are significant.
Understanding Our Health
When our doctor prescribes us a treatment plan, we often think we fully understand the goals and purpose behind their recommendations. Unfortunately, research suggests that the majority of us actually don’t understand or follow these plans. The National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that only about 12 percent of Americans tested proficient in health literacy. Meaning approximately 77 million Americans would experience some extreme difficulty in understanding their prescription drug label or following a doctor’s technical jargon.
With nearly 25 percent of the US population consisting of aging baby boomers that need more medical attention, health literacy is becoming a significant national issue. Research indicates that 71 percent of the aging population has some difficulty understanding printed health brochures, upwards of 80 percent struggle with grasping the concepts in charts, and roughly 68 percent get confused interpreting numbers associated with their medication. These misunderstandings typically lead to more emergency room visits, medication mistakes, and increased poor health.
Money Saving Knowledge
A poor understanding of personal healthcare needs seriously adds up; the National Patient Safety Foundation estimates that the US spends $50-73 billion on additional health expenses resulting from poor health literacy annually. Generally, these costs were associated with fewer people following treatment advice, increased treatment errors, and profoundly higher hospitalization rates.
Furthermore, the study found that those with poor health literacy tended to spend an average of $7,500 more on healthcare expenses annually than those with proficient health literacy. Taking the time to ask the doctor questions and fully understand the purpose behind the treatment is a major financial investment. Identifying gaps in our health knowledge is essential to making beneficial financial decisions related to health.
Striving to Learn
A study completed by the University of Texas in El Paso Nursing School on patient education found that nurses in particular had less time to spend with patients as a result of the chronic nursing shortage faced by hospitals nationwide. Less face to face time with patients has made it more difficult for healthcare professionals to assess their patient’s understanding of treatment procedures. This situation can make it difficult to ask the questions that we have to the professionals charged with providing answers.
Often times we don’t look to health literature to decipher the health information we’re missing. Rather, our questions are posed to friends and family members who might have more experience. Because our personal finances tend to be so closely tied with our health expenditure, we can save a lot by taking the time to learn the terminology associated with the medical field. The benefits can be large, and the savings profound.