Evaluation of health literacy status among patients in a tertiary care hospital in coastal Karnataka, India

U. P. Rathnakar, Madhuri Belman, Ashwin Kamath, B. Unnikrishnan, K. Ashok Shenoy, A. L. Udupa

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: People with limited health literacy are more likely to make medication errors, and they have less health knowledge, worse health status, more hospitalizations, and higher healthcare costs than people with adequate literacy. The objective of this study is to assess the health literacy status among patients who are able to read and understand English attending a tertiary care hospital by using Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine [REALM] technique and to compare the health literacy levels to educational status and other baseline characteristics. Material and Methods: A widely used word recognition method [REALM] was used to assess the HL status of 200 patients attending a tertiary care hospital in Southern India. The number of correctly pronounced words was used to assign a grade-equivalent reading level. Scores 0 to 44 indicate reading skills at or below the 6th grade level, scores from 45 to 60 represent skills at the 7th or 8th grade level, and scores above 60 indicate skills at the high-school level or higher. Results: HL status was found below adequate level in more than 50% of the patients. Younger age group showed better HL scores compared to those aged more than 25 years. General education level or the medium of education does not truly reflect HL levels as brought out in the study. Even those with postgraduate qualification had poor HL skills. Conclusion: The study was carried out to find out the HL levels among patients attending a tertiary care hospital. It was assumed that the general education levels may not reflect true HL status. In view of the results of this study it can be concluded that patient's HL skills should not be taken for granted and adequate attention should be paid in educating and briefing patients whenever patients are required to interpret and understand health care related documents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2551-2554
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 10-11-2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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