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Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 2019 Feb;144(4):e21-e29. doi: 10.1055/a-0758-0647. Epub 2019 Feb 13.

[Deficits in Health-Literacy of Inpatients - a Cross-Sectional Study].

[Article in German; Abstract available in German from the publisher]

Author information

Klinik für Gastroenterologie, Hepatologie, Gastroenterologische Onkologie, Klinikum Bogenhausen, Städtisches Klinikum München GmbH.
Klinik für Herzchirurgie, Klinikum Bogenhausen, Städtisches Klinikum München GmbH.
Klinik für Allgemein-, Viszeral-, Endokrine und Minimal-invasive Chirurgie, Klinikum Bogenhausen, Städtisches Klinikum München GmbH.
Klinikum rechts der Isar der TU München, Institut für Medizinische Informatik, Statistik und Epidemiologie.


in English, German


Systematic investigations of health literacy in German patients are rare and mostly based on subjective self-assessment.


In a cross-sectional survey, 196 patients (female 38 %, male 62 %) in medical and surgical units were asked to complete a questionnaire that we had developed for this purpose. This questionnaire contained 43 questions about common medical terms. We investigated whether patients were familiar with these terms and could name the meaning according to correct definition. Furthermore, the association with the patients' socio-economic and demographic parameters (e. g. education, insurance status, utilization of media) was analyzed.


Among all questions of the questionnaire, more patients claimed to know their meaning than this was the case by objective testing. Association of medical knowledge with demographic and socio-economic data revealed that correct answers were more frequent among women compared to men (51.1 % vs. 47.2 %; p = 0.12). Patients' age was negatively correlated with medical knowledge (p < 0.001). Higher educational level was associated with a higher percentage of correct answers (p < 0.001). Private insurance status had significant influence on medical knowledge (p = 0.002). Male patients working intellectually (compared to working physically) had a higher percentage of correct answers (p = 0.001). Other factors like reading newspapers, watching TV and number of consultations per year did not influence the percentage of correct answers.


Physicians should make sure by active inquiries whether the patient understands them correctly. Furthermore, there is a considerable gap between subjective and objective medical knowledge that future evaluations of health literacy should be aware of.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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