Health literacy, computer skills and quality of patient-physician communication in Chinese patients with cataract

PLoS One. 2014 Sep 16;9(9):e107615. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107615. eCollection 2014.


Purpose: The aim of the study was to assess levels of health literacy and computer skills in Chinese patients with cataract, and their impact on the doctor-patient relationship.

Methods: We undertook a cross-sectional study of cataract patients scheduled for cataract extraction procedures in Guangdong Province, China. Generic health literacy was assessed using 3 established screening questions. Adequate computer skills was determined if patients had used a computer and routinely used search engines on the Internet. Socio-demographic measures (e.g., age, sex, education) were obtained from a standardized interview. Participants who indicated that they could not understand what their doctors mean were considered to have had poor patient-physician communications.

Results: Of the 211 participants, 92 (43.6%) had inadequate health literacy and 204 (96.7%) inadequate computer skills. In multivariate analysis, females were more likely to have inadequate health literacy (odds ratio = 2.5, 95% confidence intervals [CI]: 1.3 to 4.7). People with inadequately health literacy were more likely to have a poor patient-physician communication (odds ratio = 3.5, 95% CIs: 1.3 to 9.0). Similar associations were found for inadequate computer skills.

Conclusion: Chinese elderly patients with cataract have inadequate health literacy and very limited computer skills, which place them at high risk of misunderstanding and mismanaging their ocular conditions. Patient education information other than online materials may improve the eye care and outcomes of these patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asian People*
  • Cataract*
  • China
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

Dr. Lin Xianchai is funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China 81200685. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.