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Avra TD, Le M, Hernandez S, Thure K, Ulloa JG. Readability assessment of online peripheral artery disease education materials. Journal of Vascular Surgery. 2022 Dec 1; 76(6):1728-1732.
OBJECTIVE: Online resources can be a valuable source of information for patients and have been shown to result in more inquiry during medical office visits, following physician medical recommendation more closely, and making self-directed lifestyle changes. The accessibility to these resources is limited by the readability level of the article and the literacy level of the population. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is estimated to affect between 8 and 12 million people in the United States with greater disease severity among under insured or uninsured populations. As PAD continues to increase in prevalence, it is imperative that patients have access to comprehensible patient-centered health information. This study aims to evaluate the readability of online PAD patient education materials. METHODS: The search engine Google was used to collect the first 25 patient-accessible online articles pertaining to the search term "peripheral artery disease." Articles were then categorized by source type: hospital, professional society, or other. Readability was measured using the following tests: Automated Readability Index, Coleman-Liau Index, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning Fog, Linsear Write Formula, and the SMOG Index. Statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Analysis Software, with P values less than .05 being statistically significant. RESULTS: Twenty-five articles were categorized by source and statistically analyzed. The average readability of PAD patient education materials was 10.8 and significantly above the American Medical Association, National Institutes of Health, and US Department of Health and Human Services recommended reading level of sixth grade. Readability scores among source categories were not significantly different. CONCLUSIONS: Commonly available online PAD resources are written at a grade level above that currently recommended by medical societies. Hospitals, professional societies, and other stakeholders in PAD patient education should take into consideration the readability of their materials to make medicine more accessible. Readable articles may combat the historic and structural racism often found in our health care system that marginalizes those with lower health literacy. It is imperative to develop patient education at an appropriate level to enrich patient autonomy.