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News2007July › Doctor What? One in four patients can't read › July 2007

Doctor What? One in four patients can't read

Everyone knows about doctors' bad, often indecipherable, handwriting

Everyone knows about doctors' bad, often indecipherable, handwriting. But a new problem has come to light - many patients can't read at all (and if you're one of them, you're probably not reading this either).

Around one in seven adult Americans cannot read, or have very limited literacy skills, while the number jumps to one in four Americans who are 64 or older.

Unfortunately, doctors rarely realize their patients are unable to read their instructions, while the patients never own up to their shortcomings because "nobody wants to look dumb, especially not in front of their doctor", says one physician.

(Source: New England Journal of Medicine, 2006; 355: 339-11).

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