Readability of Orthopaedic Oncology-related Patient Education Materials Available on the Internet

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Introduction: A person's health literacy is one of the most important indicators of a patient’s health status. According to national recommendations, patient education materials should be written at no higher than the sixth- to eighth-grade reading level. The purpose of our study was to assess the readability of online patient education materials related to orthopaedic oncology on the websites of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), American Cancer Society (ACS), Bone and Cancer Foundation (BCF), and National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Methods: We searched the online patient education libraries of the AAOS, ACS, BCF, and NCI for all articles related to orthopaedic oncology. The Flesch-Kincaid (FK) readability score was calculated for each article and compared between sources.

Results: A total of 227 articles were identified with an overall mean FK grade level of 9.8. Stratified by source, the mean FK grade levels were 10.1, 9.6, 11.1, and 9.5 for the AAOS, ACS, BCF, and NCI, respectively (P < 0.003). Only 31 articles (14%) and 1 article (0.4%) were at or below the recommended eighth- and sixth-grade levels, respectively.

Discussion: Online patient education materials related to orthopaedic oncology appear to be written at a level above the comprehension ability of the average patient.

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