Patient education is essential in enhancing the physician–patient therapeutic alliance, patient satisfaction, and clinical outcomes. The American Medical Association and National Institute of Health recommend that information be written at a 6th-grade reading level, but online resources often exceed patient literacy. The purpose of this study is to assess readability of online material for facial plastics procedures presented on academic plastic surgery and otolaryngology websites.
An Internet search was performed of all academic institutions that had both plastic surgery and otolaryngology training programs who offered patient information on facial plastic surgery procedures. National society websites for both plastic surgery and otolaryngology were also analyzed. All procedural information was compiled and readability analyses were performed. A 2-tailed Z-test was used to compare scores, and statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.
Sixty-three programs were identified; 42 had educational material. The overall average readability for all information was at a 10th-grade reading level. The national plastic surgery website had a significantly higher word count and number of syllables per word compared to the national otolaryngology website (P < 0.001, P = 0.04).
The complexity of written resources represents an obstacle to online patient education and efforts to improve readability could benefit patients seeking medical information online. Current online education materials are a potential hindrance to patient education, satisfaction, and decision making. Healthcare institutions should consider writing new materials with simpler language that would be accessible to patients.