Background: Health care professionals often use written material or video recordings to teach their patients without knowing which is more effective for comprehension of the information.
Methods: Patients watched either an instructional videotape about sleep apnea or read a newly designed brochure, then responded to a structured questionnaire containing 11 knowledge-based questions and 1 open-ended question (requesting suggestions for improvement of the brochure or videotape).
Results: Mean reported educational level was grade 12, and mean reading level was between grade 7 and 8. Using video significantly improved only two areas of knowledge for low-level (below grade 8) readers: defining sleep apnea (66% vs 43%) and identifying what continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) does for the patient (94% vs 78%). Patients requested material with more diverse cultural representation, more information on treatment and outcomes, and fewer polysyllabic words.
Conclusions: Emphasis on diagnosis and treatment, explained using simple words, should be reflected in the content of patient education brochures or videos. Providing information by video alone may have limited benefits.