Coverage and Readability of Information Resources to Help Patients Understand Radiology Reports
Teresa Martin-Carreras, MD, Charles E. Kahn Jr., MD, MS
Background: Radiology reports can be difficult for a layperson to understand. MedlinePlus, a patient-oriented reference from the National Library of Medicine, may offer limited coverage of radiology report concepts. RadLex provides an extensive radiology vocabulary but may be ill suited to help patients understand radiology reports. We compared MedlinePlus, RadLex, and the PORTER (Patient-Oriented Radiology Reporter) lay-language radiology glossary for their coverage of radiology reports and for the readability of their definitions.
Methods: We tallied how frequently terms from MedlinePlus (975 concepts), RadLex (46,433 concepts), and PORTER (3,734 concepts) were found in 10,000 radiology reports sampled randomly from a large academic health system. We also compared the readability of MedlinePlus, RadLex, and PORTER definitions.
Results: The mean number of terms matched per radiology report was 3.8 for MedlinePlus, 40.7 for RadLex, and 42.0 for PORTER. RadLex and PORTER offered significantly greater coverage than MedlinePlus (P < .0001); there was no significant difference between RadLex and PORTER. Median readability score (grade level) of definitions was 10.1 for MedlinePlus, 12.6 for RadLex, and 4.1 for PORTER.
Conclusions: The PORTER glossary matched significantly more terms in radiology reports than MedlinePlus and had similar performance to RadLex, even though RadLex had 12 times as many concepts. Only 8% of RadLex terms offered definitions, and most had readability above the 12th-grade reading level, making them incomprehensible to the average US adult. PORTER’s glossary definitions were readable by a lay audience. A lay-language radiology glossary may help patients better understand their radiology reports.