This study found that Medicare beneficiaries had lower patient activation scores, which measures ability to self-manage one's condition. Photo: Shutterstock.

In order for people to actively work on staying or becoming healthy, they need to be aware of what a health-promoting lifestyle actually looks like. The term “patient activation” is used as a measurement of people’s knowledge, skills and confidence in managing their own health, which is imperative to the longevity of a population. A recent study identified one group of individuals with poorer levels of patient activation: senior citizens. Additionally, it found that those with one or more sensory impairments also had greater odds of having lower patient activation scores, which could indicate a need for greater patient education in these risk groups.

The cross-sectional study analyzed results from 6,683 participants aged 65 and older who completed the 2016 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. The questionnaire asked the Medicare beneficiaries about topics such as their confidence level in treating their condition at home, ability to identify when they experience side effects, preparedness for appointments and knowledge of their condition. The researchers then examined the association of patient activation with self-reported vision impairment, as well as with dual sensory impairment.

The results showed that those with slight vision impairment had 20% lower odds of higher patient activation (odds ratio: 0.80), while those with advanced vision impairment had 26% lower odds (odds ratio: 0.74). The researchers added that the second model demonstrated that “having vision or hearing impairment only was associated with lower odds of higher activation than having no sensory impairment” and that “having dual sensory impairment was associated with even lower odds of higher activation.”

In conclusion, older patients with any degree of vision or hearing impairment have lower likelihood of high patient activation. Particularly, extra attention should be paid to those with dual sensory impairment to ensure they are receiving the knowledge required to manage their condition at home, which, in turn, will help improve overall clinical outcomes.

Assi L, Kozhaya K, Swenor BK, Reed NS. Vision impairment and patient activation among medicare beneficiaries. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. May 20, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].