Patients are increasingly using the Internet to supplement finding medical information, which can be complex and requires a high level of reading comprehension. Online ophthalmologic materials from major ophthalmologic associations should be written at an appropriate reading level.
To assess ophthalmologic online patient education materials (PEMs) on ophthalmologic association websites and to determine whether they are above the reading level recommended by the American Medical Association and National Institutes of Health.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Descriptive and correlational design. Patient education materials from major ophthalmology websites were downloaded from June 1, 2014, through June 30, 2014, and assessed for level of readability using 10 scales. The Flesch Reading Ease test, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook test, Coleman-Liau Index, Gunning Fog Index, New Fog Count, New Dale-Chall Readability Formula, FORCAST scale, Raygor Readability Estimate Graph, and Fry Readability Graph were used. Text from each article was pasted into Microsoft Word and analyzed using the software Readability Studio professional edition version 2012.1 for Windows.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook grade, Coleman-Liau Index score, Gunning Fog Index score, New Fog Count, New Dale-Chall Readability Formula score, FORCAST score, Raygor Readability Estimate Graph score, and Fry Readability Graph score.
Three hundred thirty-nine online PEMs were assessed. The mean Flesch Reading Ease score was 40.7 (range, 17.0-51.0), which correlates with a difficult level of reading. The mean readability grade levels ranged as follows: 10.4 to 12.6 for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level; 12.9 to 17.7 for the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook test; 11.4 to 15.8 for the Coleman-Liau Index; 12.4 to 18.7 for the Gunning Fog Index; 8.2 to 16.0 for the New Fog Count; 11.2 to 16.0 for the New Dale-Chall Readability Formula; 10.9 to 12.5 for the FORCAST scale; 11.0 to 17.0 for the Raygor Readability Estimate Graph; and 12.0 to 17.0 for the Fry Readability Graph. Analysis of variance demonstrated a significant difference (P < .001) between the websites for each reading scale.
Conclusions and Relevance
Online PEMs on major ophthalmologic association websites are written well above the recommended reading level. Consideration should be given to revision of these materials to allow greater comprehension among a wider audience.