Assessing the readability and patient comprehension of rheumatology medicine information sheets: a cross-sectional Health Literacy Study
Oliffe, M, Thompson, E, Johnston, J, Freeman, D, Bagga, H & Wong, PKK 2019, 'Assessing the readability and patient comprehension of rheumatology medicine information sheets: a cross-sectional Health Literacy Study', BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 2.
Objectives: Patients are often provided with medicine information sheets (MIS). However, up to 60% of patients have low health literacy. The recommended readability level for health-related information is ≤grade 8. We sought to assess the readability of MIS given to patients by rheumatologists in Australia, the UK and Canada and to examine Australian patient comprehension of these documents.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Community-based regional rheumatology practice.
Participants: Random sample of patients attending the rheumatology practice.
Outcome measures: Readability of MIS was assessed using readability formulae (Flesch Reading Ease formula, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook scale, FORCAST (named after the authors FORd, CAylor, STicht) and the Gunning Fog scale). Literal comprehension was assessed by asking patients to read various Australian MIS and immediately answer five simple multiple choice questions about the MIS.
results: The mean (±SD) grade level for the MIS from Australia, the UK and Canada was 11.6±0.1, 11.8±0.1 and 9.7±0.1 respectively. The Flesch Reading Ease score for the Australian (50.8±0.6) and UK (48.5±1.5) MIS classified the documents as 'fairly difficult' to 'difficult'. The Canadian MIS (66.1±1.0) were classified as 'standard'. The five questions assessing comprehension were correctly answered by 9/21 patients for the adalimumab MIS, 7/11 for the methotrexate MIS, 6/28 for the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory MIS, 10/11 for the prednisone MIS and 13/24 for the abatacept MIS.
Conclusions: The readability of MIS used by rheumatologists in Australia, the UK and Canada exceeds grade 8 level. This may explain why patient literal comprehension of these documents may be poor. Simpler, shorter MIS with pictures and infographics may improve patient comprehension. This may lead to improved medication adherence and better health outcomes.