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Am J Nephrol. 2013;38(3):184-94. doi: 10.1159/000354314. Epub 2013 Aug 21.

Assessment of printed patient-educational materials for chronic kidney disease.

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Division of Nephrology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Awareness of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is suboptimal among patients with CKD, perhaps due to poor readability of patient education materials (PEMs). We reviewed the suitability and readability of common PEMs that focused on 5 content areas: basics of CKD, risk factors for CKD development, risk factors for CKD progression, complications of CKD and self-management strategies to improve kidney health.


Three reviewers (nephrologist, primary care physician, patient) used the Suitability Assessment of Materials to rate PEMs on message content/stimulation of learning, typography, visuals and layout and determined literacy level. Mean ratings were calculated for each PEM by content area and overall (superior = 70-100; adequate = 40-69; inadequate = <40). Linear regression was used to determine the impact of literacy level on mean rating.


We reviewed 69 PEMs from 19 organizations, divided into 113 content area sections. Most (79%) PEM sections were 'adequate' (mean rating, 58.3%). Inclusion of patient-centered content and opportunities for patient interaction were associated with 'superior' ratings. Mean ratings (SD) were similar across content areas: basics of CKD, 58.9% (9.1); risk factors for CKD development, 57.0% (12.3); risk factors for CKD progression, 58.5% (12.0); CKD complications, 62.3% (15.7), and self-management strategies, 62.2% (12.3). ≤6th grade literacy level (vs. >6th grade) was associated with an 11.7 point higher mean rating.


Most PEMs for kidney disease were adequate. Outstanding PEMs shared characteristics of patient centeredness, a low literacy level, and patient interaction. Providers should be aware of strengths and limitations of PEMs when educating their patients about CKD.

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