The importance of health literacy hit home for Lisa Gualtieri when a Cambodian refugee diagnosed with cancer asked her to act as a patient advocate.
She played the role of a "salty tongue," a Cambodian expression that paints outspokenness in a positive light. But even though the patient's family was in the room when doctors took the time to answer every last question about test results and treatment options, the refugee's family would call Gualtieri hours later to review what doctors had said.
A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests one potential reason for the family's confusion: Despite good intentions, many experts may be creating educational materials that are too difficult for patients and their families to grasp.
"Patients will often come to the office, and one of the first things they say to you, especially about technical information, they'll say that they've been on the Internet, and they'll quote one or two key phrases back to you," said study author Dr. Charles Prestigiacomo. "Unfortunately, the little soundbites, while accurate, may not be complete."