The Importance of Health and Digital Literacy

These are two very important expressions. Health literacy refers to the ability to read and understand health information or pieces of information shared by the doctor; while digital literacy partially refers to the ability of using and understanding digital tools/platforms as well as acquiring skills of using the internet properly.

Obviously, doctors have the ability of health literacy (that is how they are trained), but in the digital one, they lack of many things.

Patients should be equal partners in the treatment, read more information about their condition (even online) and ask relevant questions. These patients are not just e-patients. We need to help them become e-patients (although there are patients who need the doctors to tell them exactly what to do and they stick to that, the description above does not apply to them).

Doctors should be able to answer patients’ questions about diagnosis, symptoms and treatments (obviously), but now also questions related to the internet. This is now a part of their job. The profession of medical doctors is largely based on communication (with only a few exceptions such as radiology and surgery) and social media (or the internet all together) is now a part of it.

I understand it’s hard for patients who live in a paternalistic medical system to get things into their own hands; and I understand it’s hard for doctors to acquire digital skills, but this is the only way we can construct an efficient healthcare environment.

Maged N Kamel Boulos published an amazing article about it (PDF) and here is an absolutely relevant slideshow.