Improving the readability of online foot and ankle patient education materials

Academic Article


  • © The Author(s) 2014. Clinical Relevance: This study provides authors of patient education materials with simple editing techniques that will allow for the improvement in the readability of online patient educational materials. The improvement in readability will provide patients with more comprehendible education materials that can strengthen patient awareness of medical problems and treatments.Background: Previous studies have shown the need for improving the readability of many patient education materials to increase patient comprehension. This studys purpose was to determine the readability of foot and ankle patient education materials and to determine the extent readability can be improved. We hypothesized that the reading levels would be above the recommended guidelines and that decreasing the sentence length would also decrease the reading level of these patient educational materials.Methods: Patient education materials from online public sources were collected. The readability of these articles was assessed by a readability software program. The detailed instructions provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were then used as a guideline for performing edits to help improve the readability of selected articles. The most quantitative guideline, lowering all sentences to less than 15 words, was chosen to show the effect of following the NIH recommendations.Results: The reading levels of the sampled articles were above the sixth to seventh grade recommendations of the NIH. The MedlinePlus website, which is a part of the NIH website, had the lowest reading level (8.1). The articles edited had an average reduction of 1.41 grade levels, with the lowest reduction in the Medline articles of 0.65.Conclusion: Providing detailed instructions to the authors writing these patient education articles and implementing editing techniques based on previous recommendations could lead to an improvement in the readability of patient education materials.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Sheppard ED; Hyde Z; Florence MN; McGwin G; Kirchner JS; Ponce BA
  • Start Page

  • 1282
  • End Page

  • 1286
  • Volume

  • 35
  • Issue

  • 12