|Trends & Perspectives|
Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (OCD), in partnership with the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), published consumer-survey results and a report revealing the state of blood test health literacy in the United States, with strategies to support patient education and empowerment. The survey and report are part of the Know Your Numbers campaign, which was launched in conjunction with National Health Literacy Month last year.
Among the survey’s findings were that nearly 90 percent of people would prefer to discuss blood test results during a doctor visit, yet only about 40 percent have actually discussed results in person. And, although eight in ten people who reported having a recent blood test said they understood the results, roughly half of those people did not know their own cholesterol levels. Nearly two-thirds of them, or 65 percent, did not know their blood-glucose level.
The Know Your Numbers campaign seeks to help patients realize the importance of blood test results in maintaining their health and encourage them to take a more active role in engaging with their healthcare providers to understand those results. Key to achieving the goals of the campaign, says OCD, is ensuring that laboratories can get results directly to patients and their healthcare providers-currently a limiting factor in most states.
Getting Started. Stephanie Fagan, vice president of communications, OCD, explains the impetus for the campaign this way: “When we at OCD stepped back and asked what our role was in improving health literacy, it was really striking because we, along with other manufacturers of blood tests, are the starting point for healthcare decisions for both the physician and the consumer. And it’s the information contained in our tests that is either the starting point for wellness or the starting point for understanding sickness and what to do about it. We asked, ‘How do we make inroads to health literacy with the work that we do in healthcare?’”
Taking Steps Toward Change. The campaign, she says, can so far be viewed as three steps: The first was doing the survey and understanding the results. The second was holding a Fundamental to Wellness summit in the early part of 2011 that brought together many of the stakeholders who “touch the healthcare continuum,” Fagan says. These included industry representatives, physicians, nurse practitioners, and members of organizations that serve minority populations. “We brought together this diverse group of stakeholders,” Fagan says, “to take a look at those survey results and determine the barriers to health literacy as it relates to people understanding their own blood tests. We compiled the discussion points and guidelines into a summit report.” OCD is making that report available to “a diverse group of healthcare stakeholders to first bring awareness and then hopefully foster understanding,” Fagan says.
The third step was to make some educational materials available to consumers. “We wanted to give consumers a simple call to action,” says Fagan. That call to action is as follows: Make sure you have an annual health exam. As part of that exam, make sure your blood test results are captured, and make sure that there is follow-up with your healthcare provider to have a conversation about those results. “We know from the survey that [consumers’ receiving test results and discussing them] was the missing link,” Fagan says.
Future Plans. Now that the survey results are in and have been examined by the relevant stakeholders, OCD is working on future plans. “We are working to come up with a measurable definition of success” for the campaign, Fagan says. “One option is, now that we’ve held the summit, done market research, talked with various stakeholders, do we go into disadvantaged communities next? Do we pick one or two, for example, in the United States and do some sort of market-research community-based project where we partner with nurses and physicians in a community setting? And take the tools that we’ve developed so far and put them to action?” She asks, “What might we see, for example, in a community clinic if patients get their lab tests done first? Do we see an improvement in outcomes? What do we see if we also have a control arm that doesn’t do that?” OCD is now looking at ways to put the data it has to use to see what kind of differences it can make in healthcare settings when blood tests are “top of mind and become an integral part of the provider-patient conversation,” Fagan says.
“What’s really exciting about this,” she adds, “is taking healthcare information that typically has been relegated to the lab and finding a new voice for it by getting consumers involved.”
Ultimately this campaign will be a success, Fagan says, if OCD can get consumers to turn their blood-test results into action and make a difference in their own healthcare. “If they know a number and they know enough to take control of a glucose or cholesterol level and avoid a path to chronic disease, that’s the ultimate goal,” she says.