Eye care practitioners must improve communication with patients to avoid negative visual outcomes, according to a review published in Ophthalmology. Relying on written media to disseminate information often neglects considerations of patient reading levels and comprehension, according to the report.
Investigators performed a retrospective literature review of peer-reviewed articles pertaining to health literacy, education, and disparities in eye care. Opinion pieces and studies conducted in countries outside of the US were excluded from the analysis.
According to the review, higher education and income levels were associated with a greater awareness of ocular health. Participants who were Hispanic reported the lowest access to eye health resources and were least likely to have eye examinations. While most participants were aware of glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, few understood that the early stages of these diseases could be asymptomatic.
A patient survey revealed that a majority of respondents could not identify glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease as the 3 main causes of blindness in the US (81%).
Among adults diagnosed with diabetes, 39.7% of patients reported that they did not receive an eye exam because they believed it was not necessary. Adults older than 65 years frequently reported a belief that they did not need an eye exam and youths belonging to minority groups frequently reported not receiving a recommendation from a healthcare professional to obtain an eye examination.
Researchers cite difficulty in accessing ophthalmological education materials as a barrier to health literacy emphasizing that a majority of adults get health information from nonprint sources compared with print media. The report states that the average US citizen reads on an 8th grade level and the average Medicare beneficiary reads on a fifth grade level. Patient education materials, however, are frequently written on a tenth grade level.
The report suggests using technology and the internet to educate patients. Information is easily accessible and eye care practitioners can send reminder alerts to patients to receive eye exams.
“Recognizing the increasing importance of electronic sources in distributing healthcare information and focusing on the limited health literacy of underserved populations may help decrease these disparities,” according to the researchers. “By ensuring that learning materials are written at the appropriate reading level and making information easily accessible, we can begin to improve knowledge about eye conditions among vulnerable populations.”
Disclosure: One study author declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or clinical research organizations. Please see the original reference for full list of authors’ disclosures.
Capó H, Edmond JC, Alabiad CR, Ross AG, Williams BK, Briceño CA. The importance of health literacy in addressing eye health and eye care disparities. Ophthalmol. Published online September 1, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2022.06.034