Radiation Oncology and Online Patient Education Materials: Deviating From NIH and AMA Recommendations

Arpan V. Prabhu, David R. Hansberry, Nitin Agarwal, David A. Clump, Dwight E. Heron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose Physicians encourage patients to be informed about their health care options, but much of the online health care–related resources can be beneficial only if patients are capable of comprehending it. This study's aim was to assess the readability level of online patient education resources for radiation oncology to conclude whether they meet the general public's health literacy needs as determined by the guidelines of the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Medical Association (AMA). Methods Radiation oncology–related internet-based patient education materials were downloaded from 5 major professional websites (American Society for Radiation Oncology, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, American Brachytherapy Society, RadiologyInfo.org, and Radiation Therapy Oncology Group). Additional patient education documents were downloaded by searching for key radiation oncology phrases using Google. A total of 135 articles were downloaded and assessed for their readability level using 10 quantitative readability scales that are widely accepted in the medical literature. Results When all 10 assessment tools for readability were taken into account, the 135 online patient education articles were written at an average grade level of 13.7 ± 2.0. One hundred nine of the 135 articles (80.7%) required a high school graduate's comprehension level (12th-grade level or higher). Only 1 of the 135 articles (0.74%) met the AMA and NIH recommendations for patient education resources to be written between the third-grade and seventh-grade levels. Conclusion Radiation oncology websites have patient education material written at an educational level above the NIH and AMA recommendations; as a result, average American patients may not be able to fully understand them. Rewriting radiation oncology patient education resources would likely contribute to the patients’ understanding of their health and treatment options, making each physician-patient interaction more productive and efficient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-528
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Volume96
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

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