Oct 1, 2011
Journal of Communication in Healthcare
Abstract For groups like the elderly who are at risk for low levels of health literacy, documents must be easily comprehensible, particularly as the information becomes increasingly complex. The current research focused on a multilevel examination of a procedural excerpt of a handbook on Medicare, the US government program providing financial assistance to senior citizens for healthcare. Complementing assessments of readability, syntax, and verb mood were content analysis and the validated SAM (suitability of materials) instrument. The research focused on techniques used within this document excerpt (excluding hyperlinks), along with suggested actions for improvement. The excerpt targeted an audience with average to low levels of literacy in terms of shorter words and paragraphs; proportions of complex sentences, conditional mood, and the subordinating conjunction ‘if’ signal potential difficulty in comprehension. Results from the SAM analysis identified specific improvements within the broad categories of organization, visualization, and simplification. Tools like the SAM instrument, in conjunction with related techniques, can assist in the design and revision of healthcare documents suitable to the target audience intended to benefit.