A critical review of the readability of online patient education resources from RadiologyInfo.Org

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Mar;202(3):566-75. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.11223.


Objective: Health consumers and their families rely on the Internet as a source of authoritative information regarding the procedures used to reach a diagnosis, effect treatment, and influence prognosis. In radiology, online materials can be a means by which to offer patients comprehensible explanations of the capabilities, the risks and rewards, and the techniques under our purview. Consequently, estimations of health literacy should take into account the reading level of the average American when composing and transmitting such information to the lay public without the mediation of a referring physician.

Materials and methods: In December 2012, patient education reports from the files of RadiologyInfo.org, a jointly sponsored website of the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America, were downloaded to assess their textual sophistication. All 138 patient education articles including the glossary were analyzed for their respective level of "readability" using the following 10 evaluative scales: Flesch Reading Ease, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Grading, Coleman-Liau Index, Gunning Fog Index, New Dale-Chall scale, FORCAST, Fry graph, Raygor Readability Estimate, and New Fog Count.

Results: The 138 online patient education articles were written, on average, between the 10th and 14th grade levels, which exceeds both the American Medical Association and the National Institutes of Health recommendations that patient education resources be comprehensible to those who read no higher than the seventh grade level.

Conclusion: Patients may accrue a greater benefit from written articles available on RadiologyInfo.org if the texts were revised to be in compliance with the National Institutes of Health and American Medical Association grade level recommendations. This could lead to a broadened appreciation of the capabilities of radiology's role in general and enhanced understanding of imaging techniques and their application to clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Educational Measurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Literacy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Online Systems
  • Patient Education as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiology / education*