Original Research|Articles in Press

Readability, Understandability, and Actionability of Online Limb Preservation Patient Education Materials

Published:March 13, 2023DOI:


      With countless sites detailing disease management, treatment, and prognosis, patients often turn to the internet for medical decision-making assistance. While such sites provide ample patient education material, little is known about the reading level, understandability, and actionability of information on these sites. In a limb preservation population, assessing what information patients are interpreting becomes vital to ensure care is not compromised. Internet searches of the terms “Charcot foot, diabetic foot ulcer, foot ulcer, critical limb ischemia, gangrene, osteomyelitis, lymphedema, DVT, pulmonary thrombosis, and amputation” were performed. The Flesch Kincaid Readability score from the text from the first ten links with patient education information were calculated. Understandability and actionability of each resource were then graded by two reviewers. Across the 100 accessed websites, 10% maintained patient education materials with at least one readability score at or below the recommended sixth grade reading level. 73% of the materials revealed an understanding greater than the recommended 70%. 99% of materials maintained patient education materials with actionability less than 70%. The Spearman Rho correlation revealed a statistically significant relationship between understandability score and the order of each keyword's respective website search position (Rho = -0.01; p = 0.002). Overall, many online limb preservation patient education materials are written well above the recommended sixth grade reading level with varying understandability and actionability scores. Online resources, as well as physician offices, should examine their patient education materials to ensure they are of an appropriate reading level and provide actions to be taken in case of emergencies.

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