Friday, March 21, 2014

Do Consumers Understand Their Health Terms? New Health Literacy Innovations' Survey Suggests

When it comes to understanding basic health information, many Americans do not understand simple terms, even some of America's biggest chronic conditions, so says a new survey from Health Literacy Innovations (HLI), a company that creates tools to eliminate confusion from low health literacy.

Using Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a crowdsourcing Internet site, HLI asked 1,000 respondents to define 21 health terms. Some of the respondents offered correct definitions for some of the terms, yet many did not know what these terms meant or gave incorrect answers.

When asked to define "hypertension," 53.7% of those surveyed defined it as "high blood pressure." Yet, 12% "did not know" and another 9.8% defined hypertension as high blood sugar, a potentially dangerous wrong description, especially in a medical emergency. 

Other findings include:

  • 59.2% defined melanoma as "skin cancer;" 15% defined it as "cancer" 
  • 11.3% "did not know"

Myocardial Infarction 
  • 64.5% defined "acute myocardial infarction" as "heart attack" 
  • 8.3% "did not know" 
  • 2.4% defined it as a "body part"

  • 59.4% defined "hyperglycemia" as "high blood sugar" 
  • 13% "did not know" 
  • 7% defined it as "diabetes"


  • 44.7% defined edema as "swelling of a body part due to fluid retention" 
  • 29.7% "did not know" 
  • 24% defined it as a "body part"


  • 64.9% defined benign as "not very harmful" 
  • 16.4% "did not know" 
  • 13.5% defined it as "very severe"

Other consumer responses included:
  • Bilateral: 16.9% "did not know"; 2.3% defined it as an "Illness" 
  • Analgesic: 24.5% "did not know" 
  • Angina: 28.9% "did not know"; 3% defined it as a "body part" 
  • Transdermal: 12.2% "did not know"; 8% said it was "skin issue"

"Given the complexity of the health care environment, it’s no surprise that many consumers are confused about simple health terms," says HLI's Chief Content Director Aracely Rosales. "Having good health literacy -- understanding basic health information, and how to read, act on, and follow information -- is crucial for America’s consumers, especially those new to health care via the Affordable Care Act. HLI’s Health Literacy Advisor, a comprehensive health literacy software tool, can help health care providers to explain simple health terms while creating industry standardization.

Read more:

How Playing Video Games Could Be The Path To Wellness [Future Of Health]

It has been estimated that Earth’s population spends approximately 3 billion hours per week playing computer games, an impressive statistic which seems to point to an inherent affinity humans have towards gaming. Designers have been taking notice of this fact, and in turn are introducing more gamified elements into people’s everyday lives, particularly when it comes to health care. Imagine if every time you picked up your phone to play a game you were actually helping yourself get a bit closer to your health or fitness goals? The net benefit of these activities would be more people taking an active role in managing their wellness.

While the idea of gaming for health may seem hard to connect, a recent study from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine examined the effects of gaming on health outcomes, and video games improved 69% of psychological therapy outcomes, 59% of physical therapy outcomes, 50% of physical activity outcomes, 46% of clinician skills outcomes, 42% of health education outcomes, 42% of pain distraction outcomes, and 37% of disease self-management outcomes.

In light of this, gameplay and mechanics are being integrated into long term treatment, recovery and fitness plans as ways to ensure that people stay motivated and adhere to their goals. These hybrid therapies are designed particularly to turn repetitive, foreign and often difficult tasks into fun activities, while helping patients and their caregivers track progress over time. This gamification of healthcare is a trend featured in PSFK Labs’ latest Future of Health Report, we’re calling Game Therapy.
The overarching idea is not that games present some sort of new solution, but rather that it is an effective way to engage patients in their own treatment, in turn as part of a larger ecosystem of health services. As Roger Alitzer, Director of Game Design and Production at the University of Utah says, “People play games because they are engaging. We are now starting to understand how games motivate us, and how to use this motivation to change health care.”

As part of understanding this tie between games and health, the following questions can aid brands and health related companies as they look to better engage with consumers:

  • What mental states are important for patients to maintain during treatment, how can they be supported in game play?
  • How can daily chronic care activities be made fun using game mechanics?
  • Are there unhealthy behaviors that can be offset by daily game usage, which in turn reinforce positive actions?
  • How can personal profiles and data help to inform personalized programs?
  • What entertaining activities can be repackaged for patients and recovering survivors to alleviate their discomfort and deliver a dose of enjoyment?
  • Can you incorporate social elements to help further engage patients in treatment adherence or fitness activities?