Abdominal imaging and patient education resources: enhancing the radiologist–patient relationship through improved communication
The relative ease of Internet access and its seemingly endless amount of information creates opportunities for Americans to research medical diseases, diagnoses, and treatment plans. Our objective is quantitative evaluation of the readability level of patient education websites, written for the lay public, pertaining to common radiologic diagnostic test, and radiologic diagnoses specific to abdominal imaging.
In October 2015, 10 search terms were entered in the Google search engine, and the top 10 links for each term were collected and independently examined for their readability level using 10 well-validated quantitative readability scales. Search terms included CT abdomen, MRI abdomen, MRI enterography, ultrasound abdomen, X-ray abdomen, cholecystitis, diverticulitis, hepatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and pancreatitis. Websites not written exclusively for patients were excluded from the analysis.
As a group, the 100 articles were assessed at an 11.7 grade level. Only 2% (2/100) were written at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and American Medical Association (AMA) suggested 3rd to 7th grade level to meet the 8th grade average reading level in the United States. In fact, 49% were written at a level that required a high school education or higher (greater than 12th grade).
With websites like radiologyinfo.org, generating over a million visitors a month, it is that clear there is a public interest in learning about radiology. However, given the discordance between the level of readability of the majority of the Internet articles and the NIH and AMA guidelines noted in this study on abdominal imaging readability, it is likely that many readers do not fully benefit from these resources on abdominal imaging.