The readability index is an assessment determining the ability for people to read and understand information. The readability index is determined using a formula that considers word and sentence complexity. The score represents the grade level and age which a person must be to best understand the subject matter. For example, a generated score of 3 indicates that a 3rd grader or 8 to 9-year-old should be able to understand the information. The readability index score recommended by the American Medical Association and Nation Institutes of Health regarding information remain at or below a 6th grade level (Eltorai et al., 2015). Therefore, the readability index is essential when reviewing a website for patient education.
It is important for providers to know the reliability of sources which they are providing to patients or that patients may be utilizing at home. Providers can determine a website’s reliability by considering the target audience, the author, and publication name (UoE, 2017). For example, is the website addressing an academic audience or the public, is the author anonymous, and is the publication a professional publication? Providers should assess if the content is well-written or if there are any spelling or grammatical errors (UoE, 2017). Providers should assess if the website is current and is the content impartial or biased. Another reliability indicator is the web address itself, is the web address published by a credible source.
I often use the website UpToDate (UTD) for patient education. UTD provides current evidence-based practice information in easy to understand plain language and also utilizes pictures, graphics and charts to help readers learn (UpToDate, 2019). UTD also offers Spanish translated material. The downside to UTD is that it is not available to everyone and one must subscribe to the website in order to access the educational material.
Eltorai, A., Naqvi, S., Ghanian, S., Eberson, C., Weiss, A., Born, C., & Daniels, A. (2015). Readability of invasive procedure consent forms. Clinical and Translational Science Journal, 8(6), 830-833. doi: 10.1111/cts.12364
University of Edinburgh. (2017). How to evaluate website content. Retrieved from https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/finding-resources/library-databases/databases-overview/evaluating-websites
UpToDate. (2019). Patient education engages patients in their health care. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/home/patient-education
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