CAN YOU REALLY JUST GOOGLE IT? THE READABILITTY OF WEBSITES DISCUSSING PELIVC FLOOR DYSFUNCTION
L. SHEHATA1, B. GARCIA 1, S. DUTTA 2, F. LANE 3;
1Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Univ. of California, Irvine Sch. of Med., Orange, CA, 2Gynecology & Obstetrics, Univ. of California, Irvine Sch. of Med., Orange, CA, 3UC Irvine, orange, CA.
Introduction: The average American reads at an 8th grade level, with 17 percent of Americans reading at or below a 5th grade level.1 With 87 percent of Americans researching health-related questions online and 70 percent of them stating that this influences their health decisions, it is imperative that patients understand what they are reading.2 Patient symptom questionnaires, pamphlets, and health-related websites frequently require above an 8th grade reading level to comprehend the information.2-3 No study has focused on websites related to urogynecology in the U.S..
Objective: The aim of this study is to assess the readability of U.S. websites providing information on different types of pelvic floor disorders (PFD).
Methods: Google search engine was used to search 17 common PFD terms. The first five website results for each search term were assessed using an online calculator (http://www.readability-score.com). Links to the same website, advertisements, and dictionary definitions were excluded from the study. The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease was used to determine how easily the information could be read; scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores representing easier readability. The reading level of each website was assessed by averaging the score from four different accepted formulas: the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, the Gunning-Fog Score, the Coleman-Liau Index, and the simple measure of gobbledygook (SMOG) Index (proven to be the most accurate for evaluating healthcare material). The score generated from each of these formulas is directly related to the number of years of education (grade level) needed to comprehend the information presented. Scores below the 8th grade reading level were deemed appropriate.
Results: Across all websites, the average ease of readability was 49.0; range from 27.8 to 64.8. On average, an 11th grade reading level was required to comprehend the information on the websites. Only 2% (2/85) of the websites presented information at or below an 8th grade reading level (Figure 1). The SMOG Index reflected an average reading level of 10th grade; range from 7th grade to university level (Table 1). The websites that appeared most frequently during these searches were WebMD (16/17), Mayo Clinic (13/17), and Healthline (9/17). The average ease of readability for these websites was 49.1, 46.8, and 48.5, respectively. They all required an average of an 11th grade reading level (Table 2).
Conclusions: In concordance with the current literature on health-related website readability, nearly all websites reviewed were written above the recommended 8th grade reading level. With so many Americans turning to the internet as a source for medical information, improving the readability of medical websites is essential for facilitating patient comprehension.
References: 1) Informatics for Health and Social Care 2010;36(4);173-189
2) J Vasc Interv Radiol 2013;24:469-474
3) J Obstet Gynaecol Can 2006;28:700-712
Average Readability Score Using Each Formula
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level
Ease of Readability for the Three Most Common Websites
Ease of Readability
Average Grade Level