Background: Health literacy is the single best predictor of an individual's health status. It is important to customize health-related education material to the individual patient's level of reading skills. Readability of a given text is the objective measurement of the reading skills one should possess to understand the written material.
Questions/purposes: In this article, some of the commonly used readability assessment tools are discussed and guidelines to improve the comprehension of patient education handouts are provided. Where are we now? Several healthcare organizations have recommended the readability of patient education materials be no higher than sixth- to eighth-grade level. However, most of the patient education materials currently available on major orthopaedic Web sites are written at a reading level that may be too advanced for comprehension by a substantial proportion of the population. WHERE DO WE NEED TO GO?: There are several readily available and validated tools for assessing the readability of written materials. While use of audiovisual aids such as video clips, line drawings, models, and charts can enhance the comprehension of a health-related topic, standard readability tools cannot construe such enhancements. HOW DO WE GET THERE?: Given the variability in the capacity to comprehend health-related materials among individuals seeking orthopaedic care, stratifying the contents of patient education materials at different levels of complexity will likely improve health literacy and enhance patient-centered communication.