Back to the Basics: The Importance of Considering Health Literacy in the Development and Utilization of Consumer E-Health Interventions

Back to the Basics: The Importance of Considering Health Literacy in the Development and Utilization of Consumer E-Health Interventions

Reshma Prashad (York University, Canada) and Mei Chen (Seenso Institute for Public Health, Canada)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4074-8.ch004
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Health literacy is a critical foundation that needs to be considered prior to the development and deployment of consumer e-health technologies. The authors indicate the problems associated with the lack of effective health literacy strategies in current consumer e-health interventions and then present a patient-centered, disease-specific, task-relevant, and contextualized health literacy approach. The goal of such an approach is to help patients better understand their illnesses make sense of their health data, make informed decisions, and more effectively manage their health conditions. The authors make five recommendations concerning health literacy in order to make e-health interventions effective. They also describe next-generation health literacy interventions that take advantage of emerging technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, automatic translation, and augmented reality. Finally, the authors point out a research and development direction towards an intelligent, integrated, and connected consumer e-health solution.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic illnesses as conditions/diseases that persist for more than three months and cannot be cured with medications or vaccines (World Health Organization, 2017). Given that chronic illnesses do not disappear, healthcare organizations have to treat chronically ill patients on an ongoing basis for the rest of their lives. The cost of caring for chronically ill patients is economically unsustainable, and patients experience poor health outcomes as a result of receiving episodic care, this has a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life (Wodchis, Dixon & Anderson, 2015).

Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes are the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths (World Health Organization, 2017). This invisible epidemic is an under-appreciated cause of poverty and hinders the economic development of many countries. In Canada, 68 billion dollars is spent annually on care for chronically ill patients, and that amount rises to 190 billion dollars when the indirect costs (sick days and loss of productivity) are added (Wodchis, Dixon & Anderson, 2015).

Current approaches to chronic disease management are ineffective and result in a low clinical value (Wodchis, Dixon & Anderson, 2015). In addition to suboptimal clinical effectiveness, chronic illnesses have a significant negative financial impact on both patients and the healthcare system. Effective and efficient chronic disease management is the first critical and essential step in transforming the healthcare system. A major shortcoming of current approaches is the collection of episodic data that is not beneficial to the proactive management of chronic conditions. Healthcare organizations have come to realize this and are therefore seeking ways to proactively engage patients via Consumer eHealth interventions in their homes and communities (Curtis, Cheng, Rose & Tsai, 2011).

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