Founded in 1851, Northwestern University is one of the country's leading private research and teaching universities with an enrollment of approximately 8,000 full-time undergraduate students and approximately 8,000 full-time graduate and professional stud
It's not surprising if you think of it this way: "If you spend an hour a year face-to-face with your doctor and you have diabetes or another chronic health condition, 99 percent of quality control in outpatient health care is driven by the patient because you're the one who has to deal with the day-to-day problem-solving," says Michael Wolf, a professor of medicine and learning sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
That's why it's smart to keep a written record or even to record the conversation with your smartphone or another audio device, so you'll have detailed information to refer to later. (Just be sure to ask your doctor's permission before recording.) "Remembering what's told to you in a medical encounter is a big aspect of health literacy," Wolf says.
Stephen Anzaldi Professor Michael Wolf, who researches drug labeling, holds up a seemingly contradictory warning on a prescription for Nexium given to his brother by a pharmacy in Washington, D.C.
Michael Wolf, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine who serves on an FDA risk-communication advisory panel, says in recent studies, more than half of adults misunderstood one or more common prescription warnings and precautions.
In one study Dr. Wolf and colleagues found that patients better understood simple, explicit language on warning labels-like "use only on your skin" instead of "for external use only"-and those with lower literacy skills also benefited from picture icons, such as a sun with a black bar across with words, "limit your time in the sun."
In Europe, medication is rarely dispensed in "loose pill" form (placed in amber vials as they are in America), says Michael Wolf, a researcher at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
When Wolf ran a study and filled 100 different prescriptions around the country, he saw first-hand how disparate the labeling is.
In some cases, Wolf noticed how big the pharmacy logo was compared with the rest of the info.
His work led to creating a more evidence-based label, ditching some of the widely used but ineffective language like that dreaded word "twice" and moving to a system that's easier to digest.
Wolf and colleagues tested their "enhanced prescription label," which tells patients when to take their meds depending on the time of day by using a picture of a pillbox.
They tested this model and found that it improved outcomes, especially in low-literacy patients.
He says that relatively simple tweaks could improve understanding, prioritizing content over logos and making sure that fonts are large enough to be legible even by aging eyes.
Anything below a size 10 font is pretty difficult to understand, Wolf says.
"Most people don't get a lot of information from their doctor," explained Wolf.
"We should eventually have a national model for labels," says Wolf.
Professor Michael Wolf - Luto - Health Communications & Testing
Michael is Professor of Medicine, Associate Division Chief of Research for General Internal Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.He is a cognitive/behavioural scientist and health services researcher with expertise in adult learning and cognitive factors as applied to medication use and chronic disease management.He has received numerous awards, including a Fulbright Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award to the United Kingdom.
Michael has written over 110 peer-reviewed publications, and currently serves on advisory committees for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Brookings Institution, U.S. Pharmacopeia, National Institutes of Health, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.He has also provided consultation to the Institute of Medicine, World Health Organization, American College of Physicians Foundation, American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and Centres for Disease Control on health literacy and medication matters.
Dr. Wolf currently leads several large-scale grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
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