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J Surg Res. 2017 Oct;218:43-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2017.05.033. Epub 2017 Jun 10.

The readability of psychosocial wellness patient resources: improving surgical outcomes.

Author information

1
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana.
2
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, R.L. Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana.
3
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana; Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, R.L. Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana.
4
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana; Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, R.L. Roudebush Veterans Administration Medical Center, Indianapolis, Indiana. Electronic address: dr.michael.chu@gmail.com.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Patient education is increasingly accessed with online resources and is essential for patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes. The average American adult reads at a seventh grade level, and the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the American Medical Association (AMA) recommend that information be written at a sixth-grade reading level. Health literacy plays an important role in the disease course and outcomes of all patients, including those with depression and likely other psychiatric disorders, although this is an area in need of further study. The purpose of this study was to collect and analyze written, online mental health resources on the Veterans Health Administration (VA) website, and other websites, using readability assessment instruments.

METHODS:

An internet search was performed to identify written patient education information regarding mental health from the VA (the VA Mental Health Website) and top-rated psychiatric hospitals. Seven mental health topics were included in the analysis: generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar, major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, and suicide. Readability analyses were performed using the Gunning Fog Index, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, the Coleman-Liau Index, the SMOG Readability Formula, and the Automated Readability Index. These scores were then combined into a Readability Consensus score. A two-tailed t-test was used to compare the mean values, and statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.

RESULTS:

Twelve of the best hospitals for psychiatry 2016-2017 were identified. Nine had educational material. Six of the nine cited the same resource, The StayWell Company, LLC (StayWell Company, LLC; Yardley, PA), for at least one of the mental health topics analyzed. The VA mental health website (http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov) had a significantly higher readability consensus than six of the top psychiatric hospitals (P < 0.05, P = 0.0067, P = 0.019, P = 0.041, P = 0.0093, P = 0.0054, and P = 0.0093). The overall average readability consensus for mental health information on all websites analyzed was 9.52.

CONCLUSIONS:

Online resources for mental health disorders are more complex than recommended by the NIH and AMA. Efforts to improve readability of mental health and psychosocial wellness resources could benefit patient understanding and outcomes, especially in patients with lower literacy. Surgical outcomes are correlated with patient mental health and psychosocial wellness and thus can be improved with more appropriate levels of readability of psychosocial wellness resources.

KEYWORDS:

Depression; Mental health; Mental health literacy; Patient education; Psychosocial wellness; Readability

PMID:
28985876
DOI:
10.1016/j.jss.2017.05.033
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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