Advocate for improved medical literacy

A glaucoma search study found that online medical resources were difficult to read.

Have you heard of the Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Index (SMOG)? Let’s discuss it whether you have one or not.

A study entitled “Evaluating readability and quality of online patient educational materials for the treatment of open-angle glaucoma” recently BMJ Open Ophthalmology.1 As its title suggests, its purpose was to determine how easy the online literature was to read and understand for patients seeking to use it.

Have you ever politely asked a patient not to google their disease too much? Rarely. The only example I can remember is a patient who wanted to switch from latanoprost to apple cider vinegar for glaucoma treatment and another patient who read online that I was not qualified to treat eye disease.

The truth is that not everyone can distinguish between useful information and information that is not only useless but also potentially harmful to health.

Of course, the public has access to peer-reviewed literature held by institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, but most people lack the level of knowledge necessary to meaningfully digest much of its content. I can’t read or write. Clearly, there is room for improvement here.

Let’s go back to the research I mentioned earlier.

the study

As you might have guessed, our research included a Google search. People like me who read a lot of research (either voluntarily or because they have to) will ridicule such methodologies.

However, this is a good way to see what patients are exposed to online.

The researchers analyzed three common glaucoma searches and the top 10 Google search results for the following glaucoma drugs: timolol, brimonidine, apraclonidine, dorzolamide, latanoprost, bimatoprost, travoprost, tafluprost, and. Brinzolamide.

All websites, including search results, are readable using the Flesch Reading Ease Score (FRES), Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL), Gunning Fog Index (GFI), and Simple Measure of Gobbledygook Index (SMOG). Analyzed. The website also Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA).

A total of 111 articles were analyzed, and the researchers concluded that most of the online glaucoma content included in the study was written at a grade 6 level that is too difficult for online consumers.


From one perspective, the American Medical Association recommends that patient education materials be produced at the Grade 6 level or lower.2 It’s about 11 or 12 years old. In the UK, Health Education England recommends that patient education materials be written for She’s 11.3

The majority of websites have limited or no quality control standards, jam We establish a set of accountability benchmarks (authorship, currency, attribution, and disclosure) to rank the information available to the general public.4


The internet is clearly a great resource if used properly. Also, patients who are more knowledgeable about their health and disease status are more likely to have a better understanding of their health and disease status, resulting in better compliance with medications and other treatments. It is also clear that it is possible.

The study points to the imperative of improving healthcare literacy and increasing the online availability of healthcare resources that patients can understand. Despite many inequalities in healthcare, most patients in the United States have some form of internet access. Any website they have access to should be written for an appropriate age level.

1. Crabtree L, Lee E. Evaluation of readability and quality of online patient educational materials for the treatment of open-angle glaucoma. BMJ Open Ophthalmology. 2022;7(1): e000966. Doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2021-000966
2. Weiss BD. Health Literacy and Patient Safety: Helping Patients Understand. 2nd ed. AMA Foundation; 2007.
3. UK Health Education. A “how-to” guide to health literacy. Accessed June 17, 2022.
4. Silberg WM, Lundberg GD, Musacchio RA. Evaluate, manage, and ensure the quality of medical information on the Internet: Alerters and Readers – Readers and Readers Beware. jam1997;277:1244-1245. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540390074039

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