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Research Letter
August 2016

Patient Education Materials in DermatologyAddressing the Health Literacy Needs of Patients

Author Affiliations
  • 1Medical student at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 2Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Newark
  • 3Department of Radiology, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • 4Department of Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 5Department of Dermatology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA Dermatol. 2016;152(8):946-947. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.1135

With the increasing availability of digital educational resources and the growing number of media users, the Internet has become an invaluable resource for the dissemination of health care information to the general public. Seventy percent of American adults who use the Internet to obtain health information have reported that it influenced their decision about how to treat an illness or condition.1 Medical practitioners have the responsibility to develop and distribute materials that are readable and comprehensible to patients across different communities.1 The mean reading ability of US adults is at the 8th-grade level,2 and thus the American Medical Association and US National Institutes of Health recommend presenting patient education materials at a reading level between the 3rd and 7th grade.3 Herein, we assess the readability of more than 700 online dermatologic patient education resources published by a range of dermatologic organizations, and we use 10 widely accepted readability algorithms to determine whether these materials meet the national guidelines. This is a comprehensive analysis of publicly available Internet-based dermatology information using multiple readability assessments. We hope to build on prior research that compared the readability of selected dermatologic patient education materials from the American Academy of Dermatology and other common sources of patient education material (including WebMD.com and Wikipedia.org).4

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