Will patients agree to have their literacy skills assessed in clinical practice?

Health Educ Res. 2008 Aug;23(4):603-11. doi: 10.1093/her/cym051. Epub 2007 Sep 22.


If health providers are aware of their patients' literacy skills, they can more appropriately tailor their communication with patients. Few providers, however, assess patient's literacy skills for fear of offending patients, but no research has ever determined if patients object to such assessments. Our objectives were to determine the percentage of patients seen for routine health care that would agree to undergo literacy assessment and if satisfaction of patients differs in practices that perform literacy assessments versus practices that do not. We randomized 20 private and public medical practices to an intervention group that implemented literacy assessments with the Newest Vital Sign and a control group that did not. For intervention practices, we noted the percentage of patients agreeing to undergo the assessment. For both intervention and control practices, we assessed patient satisfaction. Of 289 patients asked to undergo literacy assessment in the intervention practices, 284 (98.3%) agreed to do so, including 125 (46.1%) with low or possibly low literacy skills. There was no difference in satisfaction between the intervention group and the control group. We conclude that patients are willing to undergo literacy assessments during routine office visits and performing such assessments does not decrease patient satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Comprehension*
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits
  • Patient Satisfaction*