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Clin Transl Sci. 2015 Dec;8(6):830-3. doi: 10.1111/cts.12364. Epub 2015 Dec 17.

Readability of Invasive Procedure Consent Forms.

Author information

1
Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
2
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Informed consent is a pillar of ethical medicine which requires patients to fully comprehend relevant issues including the risks, benefits, and alternatives of an intervention. Given the average reading skill of US adults is at the 8th grade level, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend patient information materials should not exceed a 6th grade reading level. We hypothesized that text provided in invasive procedure consent forms would exceed recommended readability guidelines for medical information.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

To test this hypothesis, we gathered procedure consent forms from all surgical inpatient hospitals in the state of Rhode Island. For each consent form, readability analysis was measured with the following measures: Flesch Reading Ease Formula, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Fog Scale, SMOG Index, Coleman-Liau Index, Automated Readability Index, and Linsear Write Formula. These readability scores were used to calculate a composite Text Readability Consensus Grade Level.

RESULTS:

Invasive procedure consent forms were found to be written at an average of 15th grade level (i.e., third year of college), which is significantly higher than the average US adult reading level of 8th grade (p < 0.0001) and the AMA/NIH recommended readability guidelines for patient materials of 6th grade (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSION:

Invasive procedure consent forms have readability levels which makes comprehension difficult or impossible for many patients. Efforts to improve the readability of procedural consent forms should improve patient understanding regarding their healthcare decisions.

KEYWORDS:

comprehension; consent form; health literacy; informed consent; readability

PMID:
26678039
PMCID:
PMC5351135
DOI:
10.1111/cts.12364
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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