Measuring Health Literacy Levels of a Patient Portal Using the CDC's Clear Communication Index.

Research paper by Jordan M JM Alpert, Linda L Desens, Alex H AH Krist, Rebecca A RA Aycock, Gary L GL Kreps

Indexed on: 18 May '16Published on: 18 May '16Published in: Health promotion practice


Once promised to revolutionize health care, patient portals have yet to fully achieve their potential of improving communication between patients and clinicians. In fact, their use can be detrimental to many consumers due to their limited literacy and numeracy skills. This study demonstrates how applying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Clear Communication Index to a patient portal can be used to identify opportunities for better patient communication and engagement. The Clear Communication Index contains 20 scored items grounded in communication science to enhance patients' understanding of health information. The Index was applied to one portal used by over 80,000 patients in 12 primary care practices: MyPreventiveCare. This portal was selected because of its ability to personalize preventive and chronic care information by internally using content featuring health literacy principles and linking patients' externally to trusted materials. Thirty-seven frequently visited portal pages (17 internal and 20 external) were evaluated based on the Index's four main variables. The overall score for the portal was 72%, which falls below the 90% threshold to be considered clear communication. Internal content scored higher than external (75% vs. 69%). Specific changes to improve the score include simpler language, more specific examples, and clearer numerical explanations.