Background: A major problem patients encounter when reading about health related issues is document interpretation, which limits reading comprehension and therefore negatively impacts health care. Currently, searching for medical definitions from an external source is time consuming, distracting, and negatively impacts reading comprehension and memory of the material.
Methods: SciReader was built as a Java application with a Flex-based front-end client. The dictionary used by SciReader was built by consolidating data from several sources and generating new definitions with a standardized syntax. The application was evaluated by measuring the percentage of words defined in different documents. A survey was used to test the perceived effect of SciReader on reading time and comprehension.
Results: We present SciReader, a web-application that simplifies document interpretation by allowing users to instantaneously view medical, English, and scientific definitions as they read any document. This tool reveals the definitions of any selected word in a small frame at the top of the application. SciReader relies on a dictionary of ~750,000 unique Biomedical and English word definitions. Evaluation of the application shows that it maps ~98% of words in several different types of documents and that most users tested in a survey indicate that the application decreases reading time and increases comprehension.
Conclusions: SciReader is a web application useful for reading medical and scientific documents. The program makes jargon-laden content more accessible to patients, educators, health care professionals, and the general public.