Understanding and using numbers is important to being healthcare smart!
Numeracy is the ability to understand information presented in numbers.
- Counting, quantifying, computing numbers – medication dosages, reading thermometers
- Interpreting graphs, charts, or tables – understanding growth charts
- Interpreting percentages and fractions – meal portions
- Understanding numbers embedded in printed materials – OTC and doctor prescribed medication instructions
Adults in the U.S. struggle with medication instructions.
- Half (46%) misunderstand common dosing instructions
- 60% struggle with auxiliary instructions when dosing
- 1 in 4 make large dosing errors with pediatric liquid medicine
- 85% may unnecessarily over-complicate Rx regimens
- 1 in 4 (24%) may exceed maximum daily dose of OTC pain medicine
Why is taking medicine hard?
- It’s a dynamic behavior (adding, adjusting, removing)
- Multi-drug regimens, variable doses, multiple devices (pills, injection, inhaler, liquid, nasal, eye drops, lotions)
- Tapered and escalating doses
- Doses dependent on measurement (weight, blood sugar)
- Daily vs. non-daily medicines
- Multiple prescribers, pharmacies, varied and sometimes poor instructions
- Brand vs. generic (pills look different, have different names)
(Michael Wolf, PhD MPH 2013)
❝ Always confirm medication accuracy. Be alert to numeracy skills as well as reading skills.❞
Resources for Above Statistics
1. Half (46%) misunderstand common dosing instructions (Davis et al., Annals of Internal Med, 2006) 2. 60% struggle with auxiliary instructions when dosing (NAAL, 2003) 3. 1 in 4 make large dosing errors with pediatric liquid medicine Yin et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010) 4. 85% may unnecessarily over complicate Rx regimens (Wolf et al., Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011 5. 1 in 4 (24%) may exceed maximum daily dose of OTC pain medicine All of the above quoted from “Effectively Communicating Medication Instructions by Michael Wolf, PhD MPH Northwester University HELP (Health Literacy and Learning Program)