Assessing Readability of Patient Education Materials: Current Role in Orthopaedics
- 1.6k Downloads
Health literacy is the single best predictor of an individual’s health status. It is important to customize health-related education material to the individual patient’s level of reading skills. Readability of a given text is the objective measurement of the reading skills one should possess to understand the written material.
In this article, some of the commonly used readability assessment tools are discussed and guidelines to improve the comprehension of patient education handouts are provided.
Where are we now? Several healthcare organizations have recommended the readability of patient education materials be no higher than sixth- to eighth-grade level. However, most of the patient education materials currently available on major orthopaedic Web sites are written at a reading level that may be too advanced for comprehension by a substantial proportion of the population.
Where do we need to go?
There are several readily available and validated tools for assessing the readability of written materials. While use of audiovisual aids such as video clips, line drawings, models, and charts can enhance the comprehension of a health-related topic, standard readability tools cannot construe such enhancements.
How do we get there?
Given the variability in the capacity to comprehend health-related materials among individuals seeking orthopaedic care, stratifying the contents of patient education materials at different levels of complexity will likely improve health literacy and enhance patient-centered communication.
KeywordsHealth Literacy Reading Skill Functional Health Literacy Patient Education Material Readability Formula
We thank Emily McClemens, PA-C, for her editorial assistance.
- 1.Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Web site. Literacy and Health Outcomes. Available at: http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/epcsums/litsum.htm. Accessed April 27, 2010.
- 11.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. Scientific and Technical Information Simply Put. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/DHDSP/cdcynergy_training/Content/activeinformation/resources/simpput.pdf. Accessed Dec 1, 2009.
- 14.Dale E, O’Rourke J. The Living Word Vocabulary: The Words We Know: A National Vocabulary Inventory Study. Elgin, IL: Dome Press; 1979.Google Scholar
- 18.Doak CC, Doak LG, Root JH. Teaching Patients With Low Literacy Skills. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott; 1996.Google Scholar
- 19.DuBay W. The Principles of Readability. Costa Mesa, CA: Impact Information; 2004.Google Scholar
- 21.Friedland R. Understanding Health Literacy: New Estimates of the Cost of Inadequate Health Literacy. Washington, DC: National Academy on an Aging Society; 1998.Google Scholar
- 40.National Cancer Institute. Clear & Simple: Developing Effective Print Materials for Low-literate Readers. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 1994.Google Scholar
- 41.National Center for Education Statistics. Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education; 1993.Google Scholar
- 42.National Center for Education Statistics. A First Look at the Literacy of America’s Adults in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Education; 2006:28.Google Scholar
- 43.National Institutes of Health. How to Write Easy to Read Health Materials. National Library of Medicine Web site. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/etr.html. Accessed Feb 1, 2009.
- 44.Nielsen-Bohlman L, Panzer AM, Kindig DA. Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, National Academies Press; 2004.Google Scholar
- 48.Vives M, Young L, Sabharwal S. Readability of spine-related patient education materials from subspecialty organization and spine practitioner websites. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2009;34:2826–2831.Google Scholar
- 51.Weiss BD. Health Literacy: A Manual for Clinicians. Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, American Medical Foundation; 2003.Google Scholar