Readability and Accessibility are Keys to Patient Information on HAIs

Park and Seale (2017) say that provision of information plays a critical role in supporting patients to be engaged or empowered to be involved with infection prevention measures in hospitals. Their explorative study evaluated the suitability, readability and accessibility of information on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) and infection prevention strategies targeted at patients from the websites of 19 acute-care public hospitals in Sydney, Australia.

The investigators included hospitals with greater than 200 beds in the sample and examined online information targeted at patients on HAIs and infection prevention and compared it using the Suitability Assessment of Material (SAM) and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG) readability formulas for suitability, readability and accessibility.

Thirty-six webpages were identified as being relevant and containing information about HAIs or infection prevention. Based on the SAM/SMOG scores, only three webpages were found to be ‘superior’. Many of the webpages scored poorly in content, literacy, graphics, learning stimulation and cultural appropriateness. In comparison, most of the webpages scored well in the layout and typography. The majority (97 percent) of the materials were written at a level higher than the recommended reading grade level. Lastly, the websites scored poorly on the ability to locate the information easily, as messages about HAIs/infection prevention were usually embedded into other topics.

The researchers conclude that while providing information online is only one approach to delivering messages about infection prevention, it is becoming increasingly important in today’s technology society. Hospitals are neglecting to use best practices when designing their online resources and current websites are difficult to navigate. The findings point to the need to review patient information on HAIs regarding suitability, readability and accessibility.

Reference: Park J and Seale H. Examining the online approaches used by hospitals in Sydney, Australia to inform patients about healthcare associated infections and infection prevention strategies. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2017;17:788