Written consent forms are a key component of obtaining informed consent from patients prior to lung cancer surgery. Reading literacy among Australians is generally poor, and it is recommended that written content is at a year 7 level to make it usable for most people. The aim of this project was to assess the readability of consent forms for thoracic surgery in Queensland, Australia.
Queensland Health consent forms for “Thoracoscopy Surgical (VATS) &/or other procedures” and “Thoracotomy for Lung Resection” were obtained. The readability of the sections relating to risks of surgery (Section C), patient consent (Section G), and the patient information sheet were assessed via an online readability software program, using five separate validated methods: (i) Flesch-Kincaid grade level, (ii) the SMOG (Simple Measure of Gobbledygook), (iii) Coleman-Liau index, (iv) Automated readability index, (v) Linsear Wriste formula. Statistical analysis was performed using Microsoft Excel.
The mean ± standard deviation reading grade level from all algorithms for risks of surgery, patient consent, and patient information was 7.81 ± 1.75, 10.77 ± 0.75, and 7.59 ± 1.14 respectively. The “Thoracotomy” form had the highest average grade level (8.81 ± 1.85) followed by “Thoracoscopy Surgical (VATS) &/or other procedures” (8.63 ± 2.06). Significant inter-algorithm differences were noted, with the Coleman-Liau nearly two grades higher than others, however the patient consent subsection was consistently above the recommended reading grade of year 7 among all algorithms.
The readability of key sections of the Queensland Health thoracic surgery consent forms is above the recommended reading grade of year 7, and a large percentage of the population would be unable to fully comprehend the information. Consideration should be made to lower the reading grade level of patient consent forms.
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