Assessment of the Readability of Online Patient Education Material from Major Geriatric Associations

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BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: An increasing number of patients are using the internet to supplement information provided by medical professionals. Online geriatric patient education materials (PEMs) should be written at or below a 6th grade reading level (GRL) that takes into account barriers unique to the geriatric population. The objectives of the study are to assess PEMs of geriatric associations' websites and determine whether they are above the GRL recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health. DESIGN: Descriptive and correlational methodology. PEMs from 10 major geriatric associations were assessed for their GRL using 10 scales. Eight of the scales provide a numerical GRL while two of the scales provide a visual representation of the GRLs. Analysis was conducted using Readability Studio 2019.3. SETTING: Analysis was conducted February 2020. PARTICIPANTS: Identified 10 geriatric associations and 884 PEMs. MEASUREMENTS: GRLs were measured by 10 validated readability indices: the Degrees of Reading Power and Grade Equivalent test, Flesch–Kincaid grade level, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook test, Coleman-Liau Index, Gunning Fog Index, New Fog Count, New Dale-Chall readability formula, Ford, Caylor, Sticht scale, Raygor readability estimate graph, and Fry readability graph. RESULTS: The mean of all PEMs using the numerical scales was 11.1 ± 2.4. Ninety-nine percent of PEMs are above the 6th GRL. PEMs ranged from a grade 3.0 to 19.0 reading level. Analysis of variance demonstrated a significant difference between associations (P <.0001), and multiple comparison analysis identified the National Institute on Aging as the content easiest to read (9.5 ± 1.6). CONCLUSION: PEMs from geriatric association websites are written above the recommended 6th GRL. As patients increasingly look toward online supplementary health information during COVID-19, there is an opportunity for improving PEMs to enable greater comprehension by the target population.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2021

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