Publication Details

Russell, M. J. M., Mullan, J. & Billington, T. (2015). Health literacy and patient comprehension in the pre-anaesthetics consultation. Australian Medical Student Journal, 6 (1), 73-76.


Background: The concept of health literacy and patient comprehension is important, especially in the area of patient consent for surgical procedures. This extends to the pre- admissions anaesthetic consultation where poor patient health literacy can have an impact on the patient's comprehension of risks. Objectives: This exploratory study aims to investigate the level of health literacy and comprehension in a population of patients attending a pre-admissions anaesthetic clinic. Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used to survey adult participants (≥18yrs old) attending a regional based pre-anaesthetics clinic. Information gathered as part of the survey included demographic information, health literacy scores (via a previously validated tool), and questions pertaining to the comprehension of their consultation. Results: In total, 51 patients participated in the study. Patients were divided into two subgroups (inadequate/ marginal vs. adequate), depending on their screened level of health literacy. Those with inadequate/marginal health literacy were significantly more at risk of having inadequate comprehension than those with adequate health literacy (p = 0.01). There was no statistically significant difference between health literacy levels and a variety of demographic indicators, including education level and employment status. Conclusion: Patients with inadequate or marginal screened health literacy scores were less likely to comprehend the information provided to them as part of their pre-admissions consultation. These results suggest that screening patients for their health literacy levels may be advantageous, in that information provided can be tailored to their individual needs. Further research is however required.