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Am J Surg. 2016 Mar;211(3):631-6. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2015.12.005. Epub 2015 Dec 28.

Readability of discharge summaries: with what level of information are we dismissing our patients?

Author information

1
Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
2
Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, Surgical Outcomes Program, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA.
3
Department of Surgery, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, WI, USA.
4
Department of Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA. Electronic address: zielinski.martin@mayo.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We assessed the health literacy of trauma discharge summaries and hypothesize that they are written at higher-than-recommended grade levels.

METHODS:

The Flesch-Kincaid grade level (FKGL) and Flesch reading ease scores (FRES), 2 universally accepted scales for evaluating readability of medical information, were used.

RESULTS:

A total of 497 patients were included. The mean patient age was 56 ± 22 years. Average FKGL and FRES were 10 ± 1 and 44 ± 7, including 132 summaries classified as very or fairly difficult to read. A total of 204 (65%) patients had functional reading skills at grade levels below the FKGL of their dismissal note; only 74 patients (24%) had the reading skills to adequately comprehend their dismissal summary. Total 30-day readmissions were 40, 65% of whom were patients with inadequate literacy for dismissal summary comprehension.

CONCLUSIONS:

Patient discharge notes are written at too advanced of an educational level. To ensure patient comprehension, dismissal notes should be rewritten to a 6th-grade level.

KEYWORDS:

Educational disparities; Flesch–Kincaid grade level; Health literacy; Readability; Trauma readmissions

PMID:
26794665
PMCID:
PMC5245984
DOI:
10.1016/j.amjsurg.2015.12.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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