The readability of general practice websites: a cross-sectional analysis of all general practice websites in Scotland

Rughani, G., Hanlon, P. , Corcoran, N. and Mair, F. (2021) The readability of general practice websites: a cross-sectional analysis of all general practice websites in Scotland. British Journal of General Practice, 71(706), e391-e398. (doi: 10.3399/BJGP.2020.0820) (PMID:33824159) (PMCID:PMC8049218)

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Background: General Practice (GP) websites are an increasingly important point of interaction, but their readability is largely unexplored. 1 in 4 adults struggle with basic literacy, and there is a socioeconomic gradient. Readable content is a prerequisite to promote health literacy. Aim: To assess GP website readability by analysing text and design factors, and to assess whether practices adapted their website text to the likely literacy levels of their populations. Design and setting: All GP websites across Scotland. Method: Text was extracted from five webpages per website and eight text readability factors were measured including Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. The relationship between readability and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) measure of a practice population’s level of deprivation was assessed. Ten design factors contributing to readability and accessibility were scored. Results: 86% (813/941) of practices had a website. 22.9% (874/3823) of webpages were written at or below the government-recommended reading level for online content (9-14 years old), and 77.1% (2949/3823) had a higher reading age. 80.5% (3077/3823) of webpages were above the recommended level for easy-to-understand ‘Plain English.’ There was no significant association between webpage reading age and SIMD. Only 6.7% (51/764) of the websites achieved all design and accessibility recommendations. Conclusion: Straightforward changes to practice websites could improve readability and promote health literacy, but will require resources and support. Failure to provide accessible websites may inadvertently contribute to the widening of health inequalities. This is increasingly important as the move to online services accelerates.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Rughani, Dr Guy and Corcoran, Dr Neave and Mair, Professor Frances and Hanlon, Dr Peter
Authors: Rughani, G., Hanlon, P., Corcoran, N., and Mair, F.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > General Practice and Primary Care
Journal Name:British Journal of General Practice
Publisher:Royal College of General Practitioners
ISSN (Online):1478-5242
Published Online:05 January 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Author(s)
First Published:First published in British Journal of General Practice 71(706): e391-e398
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
305232Understanding prevalence and impact of frailty in chronic illness and implications for clinical managementFrances MairMedical Research Council (MRC)MR/S021949/1HW - General Practice and Primary Care