Editor’s Choice- Web-based patient education materials and colorectal cancer screening

Dr. John VargoAssociate Editor Dr. John Vargo highlights this article from the August issue: “Readability, suitability, and health content assessment of web-based patient education materials on colorectal cancer screening” by Chenlu Tian, MD, Sara Champlin, MA, Michael Mackert, PhD, Allison Lazard, MS, and Deepak Agrawal, MD.

Online patient education has become a pervasive and powerful tool in medical decision-making. More and more of our patients had become “web savvy.” They have not only carefully researched our qualifications but have read up on the gastrointestinal conditions that they may have. Tian and colleagues assessed the readability, suitability, and health content assessment of web based patient education materials on colorectal cancer screening. The authors found that several of the web-based sites exhibited a readability well past the established sixth-grade level and others felt short on important health content concepts such as defining high risk populations and the need to undergo screening colonoscopy when no symptoms are present.

It is sobering to see the shortfalls of several wed-based patient educational sites for colorectal cancer screening. It is important that we educate our patients as to the variance in quality of these websites. We also need to reach out to the web site authors themselves to ensure that the information is not only complete but also is presented at the appropriate readability level to maximize the educational benefit.

We as health care professionals must become more proactive in orchestrating the content development of wed-based education sites. This should also be a wake up call for all clinicians to review the materials that are available in the office environment to ensure that it is appropriate for our patients and to hone our own communication skills to optimize the patient-physician relationship.

Read the article abstract online here.

Figure 1Figure 1. Comparison of readability scores. ASGE; American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy; AGA, American Gastroenterological Association; NCI, National Cancer Institute; CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; ACG; American College of Gastroenterology; ASCRS, American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons; CCA, Colon Cancer Alliance; ASC, American Cancer Society.

The information presented in Endoscopedia reflects the opinions of the authors and does not represent the position of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). ASGE expressly disclaims any warranties or guarantees, expressed or implied, and is not liable for damages of any kind in connection with the material, information, or procedures set forth.

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