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Pract Radiat Oncol. 2017 Jan - Feb;7(1):57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.prro.2016.07.008. Epub 2016 Aug 1.

Online patient information from radiation oncology departments is too complex for the general population.

Author information

1
Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin.
2
Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin; University of Wisconsin Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin.
3
Department of Human Oncology, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin; University of Wisconsin Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin. Electronic address: rkimple@humonc.wisc.edu.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Nearly two-thirds of cancer patients seek information about their diagnosis online. We assessed the readability of online patient education materials found on academic radiation oncology department Web sites to determine whether they adhered to guidelines suggesting that information be presented at a sixth-grade reading level.

METHODS AND MATERIALS:

The Association of American Medical Colleges Web site was used to identify all academic radiation oncology departments in the United States. One-third of these department Web sites were selected for analysis using a random number generator. Both general information on radiation therapy and specific information regarding various radiation modalities were collected. To test the hypothesis that the readability of these online educational materials was written at the recommended grade level, a panel of 10 common readability tests was used. A composite grade level of readability was constructed using the 8 readability measures that provide a single grade-level output.

RESULTS:

A mean of 5605 words (range, 2058-12,837) from 30 department Web sites was collected. Using the composite grade level score, the overall mean readability level was determined to be 13.36 (12.83-13.89), corresponding to a collegiate reading level. This was significantly higher than the target sixth-grade reading level (middle school, t (29) = 27.41, P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Online patient educational materials from academic radiation oncology Web sites are significantly more complex than recommended by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services. To improve patients' comprehension of radiation therapy and its role in their treatment, our analysis suggests that the language used in online patient information should be simplified to communicate the information at a more appropriate level.

PMID:
27663932
PMCID:
PMC5219938
DOI:
10.1016/j.prro.2016.07.008
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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