Assessment of the Readability of Genetic Counseling Patient Letters.

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J Genet Couns 2016 Jun; 25(3):454-60




Patient letters are a powerful tool that genetic counselors use to communicate with their patients. Patient letters are often sent to provide information on a new diagnosis, reiterate test results, and to serve as a permanent record of the visit. Patient letters, however, are only helpful if the patients can understand them. More than 50 % of the US population reads below a 9th grade reading level and over one-third of the population has low health literacy skills. In this study we evaluate the readability of genetic counseling patient letters by assessing reading level, image use, and terminology use. One hundred forty-nine genetic counselors participated in the survey and of these, 79 submitted a sample patient letter. Analyses of the letters revealed a mean reading level of 10.93. On average, 6 genetic terms were included in each letter, and only 25 % of these terms were defined. Analyses of survey responses revealed over 75 % of the genetic counselors did not include images in their patient letters. These results indicate there is room for improvement in order to make genetic counseling patient letters more accessible to the general population. J Genet Couns 2016 Jun; 25(3):454-60

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