Study objective: To determine whether the addition of illustrations to discharge instructions improves patient comprehension.
Design: Randomized, blinded, prospective study. A blinded investigator asked a series of questions designed to test the participant's comprehension of the discharge instructions. There were 10 possible correct responses.
Setting: Emergency department of a rural Level I trauma center.
Participants: Convenience sample of 101 patients discharged with the diagnosis of laceration.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to receive discharge instructions with (n = 54) or without (n = 47) illustrations.
Results: The median number of correct responses was five. Patients with illustrations were 1.5 times more likely to choose five or more correct responses than those without illustrations (65% versus 43%; P = .033). The effect of illustrations varied by demographic group. Among nonwhites (n = 51), patients with illustrations were more than twice as likely to choose five or more correct responses (P = .032). Among patients with no more than a high school education (n = 71), patients with illustrations were 1.8 times more likely to choose five or more correct responses (P = .038). Among women (n = 48), patients with illustrations were 1.7 times more likely to chose five or more correct responses (P = .006).
Conclusion: The addition of illustrations to discharge instructions for patients who have sustained lacerations improves patient comprehension. There is a large effect among patients who are nonwhite, female, or have no more than a high school education.