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Medical forms confusing for millions, panel says

WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans are risking their health because they cannot understand medical forms, even prescriptions, and many doctors are too harried to provide simple directions, experts said Saturday.

"This enormous problem has gone largely unrecognized and rarely discussed," said Dr. Herman I. Abromowitz, an American Medical Association trustee who participated in a discussion of health literacy at an AMA national leadership conference.

"Take away the fear of your white coat and stethoscope. Let your patients know it's OK not to understand and to ask questions," he said, reminding his colleagues they have an ethical responsibility to ensure that patients understand them.