Plain language initiative supports MTM

May 1, 2012

An increase in smartphone and e-reader use among older Americans has propelled the launch of a new health literacy initiative

NATIONAL REPORTS-Research showing an increase in smartphone and e-reader use among older Americans has propelled the launch of a new health literacy initiative focusing on Web and mobile application development.

Utilizing data from the Pew Research Center, UnitedHealthcare has teamed up with Northwestern University and AARP Services to develop a plain-language health literacy program, including the development of Web and mobile applications to help patients manage their daily medication regimens.

"People need to be able to take their medications as directed so that they can have increased quality of life and have appropriate access to care," says Steven Rush, director of the program for UnitedHealthcare. "If people take their medications as directed, they would be hospitalized less and wouldn't stay in the hospital as long."

There is a demonstrated need for using technological tools. According to recent data collected by the Pew Research Center, people ages 55 to 64 are using smartphones more to help manage their healthcare. About 17% of older Americans use or own an e-reader or tablet.

According to Rush, the Web and mobile applications are being designed to help people manage the often-difficult task of taking medications as prescribed. Because these applications are detailed, the Feinberg School of Medicine assists participants in using the tools.

Overall, Rush says, the team is trying to create a strategy for conveying the importance of medication compliance, which could then be communicated on the Web, smartphones and through mail delivery. One goal of the initiative is getting people to know about and use the MTM services available to them.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), more than 77 million U.S. adults have only basic or below-basic health literacy skills.