Evaluating the Readability of Online Patient Education Materials Regarding Shoulder Surgery: How Do Medical Institution Web Sites Rate?


This study evaluated the readability of online patient education materials on shoulder surgery. Medical and nonmedical institution web sites were compared and it was hypothesized that medical institution materials are written at lower grade levels than nonmedical institution materials, because medical institutions understand physician-patient interactions. Eighty-six articles were scored according to 10 readability tests: cumulative combined average grade level was 12.5 ± 2.8 and average Flesch reading score was 43.5 ± 12.6 (college level). The average composite grade level readability for medical institution web sites was 13 ± 2, significantly higher than for nonmedical institution web sites (11.9 ± 2.1; p = .017). Patient education materials available online are written at a higher level than American Medical Association and National Institutes of Health guidelines. Medical institution articles are written at a statistically significant higher grade level than nonmedical institution articles, but the difference is small and both rate poorly compared with current standards. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 28(3):209–214, 2019)
Key words: medical institution web sites, online patient education material, readability, shoulder surgery

Anshum Sood, MD; Grant Duvall, MD; Varun Ayyaswami, BS; S. Ashfaq Hasan, MD, and Mohit N. Gilotra, MD