Dockens, A.L., Bellon-Harn, M., Hartwell-Azios, J., Manchaiah, V. & Dueppen, A.
Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (TSHA) Conference, Houston, Texas (USA), March 2018.
Publication year: 2018


Traditional modes of service delivery for rehabilitation are not adequate for many communication disorders for a number of reasons. Poor insurance coverage and Medicare caps reduce access to services for many individuals in need. Distance to clinics that provide necessary expertise as well as the lack of transportation for some clients further impedes care, especially in the cases of extended rehabilitative needs. Thus, online digital resources are needed to reach beyond traditional means of service delivery. As the Internet has become a major source of health information (Faith, Thorburn, & Smit, 2016), it is an ideal format for professionals to share supplemental web resources or online programs with their clients to fill in gaps in service availability or financial coverage.

With greater Internet use and ease, the availability of health-related information to the average consumer has also increased. Researchers have reported that almost 80% of American Internet users seek health-related information (Fox, 2014); and that when considering the influence on health-related decisions, the Internet is second only to direct clinician advice (Couper et. al, 2010). Unfortunately, Internet information may not have adequate quality and readability for the end user (Aleligay, Worrall, & Rose, 2008; Eloy, et al., 2012).

Regarding readability, the National Adult Literacy Survey (National Center for Education Statistics, 1993) reported that the average reading level for American adults is about a 7th grade level. Researchers in the field of health literacy have recommended that information accessible to the public should be written at a 5th or 6th grade level (Doak, Doak, & Root, 1996; Weiss & Coyne, 1997). Unfortunately, healthcare information has low readability, which is defined as the ease of reading and understanding written information (Freda, 2005), and poor quality of content across many healthcare areas (Edmunds, Denniston, Boelaert, Franklyn, & Durrani, 2014; El Shunnar et al., 2011; Laplante-Lévesque, Brännström, Andersson, & Lunner, 2012; Svider et al., 2013). Existing research in the field of communications sciences and disorders has revealed poor readability with web information even exceeding 17 years of education required for understanding of the materials (Atcherson, et al., 2014; Eloy, et al., 2012; Joseph et al., 2016; Laplante-Levesque & Thoren, 2015).

Internet use has changed the patient role in their own healthcare to a much more active stance (McMullan, 2006). With this active consumerism and need to bolster service availability, it is important for speech and hearing clinicians to assess what resources we can share that are of good quality and within our patient’s comprehension. Readability and quality measures exist, and are important tools for the modern clinician. This presentation will:

1) present an overview of the current state of Internet-based resources and instruction,

2) outline the basics of readability and quality assessment, and

3) provide a description of such available measures for use by clinicians.