Reading Grade Level Too High for Most Online Lung-Cancer Screening Patient Materials

July 2, 2018

May contribute to knowledge gap inhibiting patients from improving their health literacy.

Online lung-cancer screening patient education material is too complicated for the general population to understand, according to a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the University of Pittsburgh Hillman Cancer Institute sought to determine the effectiveness of online lung cancer screening patient education materials related to the material reading grade level.

The researchers searched via Google for four terms, “pulmonary nodule,” “radiation,” “low-dose CT,” and “lung cancer screening.” They downloaded the first 20 online resources revealed. Using 10 well-established reading scales, the researchers determined if the sites were specifically written for patients.

The results showed that the 80 articles were written at a mean of a 12.6 grade level, with grade levels ranging from 4 to 19. Of the 80 articles, 62.5 percent required a high school education to comprehend, and 22.6 percent required a college degree or higher to comprehend. Only 2.5 percent of the analyzed articles adhered to the recommendations of the National Institutes of Health and American Medical Association that patient education materials be written at a 3rd- to 7th-grade reading level.

The researchers concluded that common online lung cancer screening materials are written at a level beyond the general patient population's ability to comprehend and may be contributing to a knowledge gap that is inhibiting patients from improving their health literacy.