Brochures boost parents’ understanding of pediatric imaging

Putting easy-to-understand information into a parent’s hands prior to a fluoroscopy exam improved their knowledge about the procedure and radiation exposure, according to a study published online this month in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

It’s been reported that nearly 90 million Americans have a poor understanding of written text and even those with strong literacy skills may have difficulty comprehending medical information.

The authors, led by Robin D. Gebhard, MD, with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, noted the disconnect between Americans and health information—despite the fact that more than 20 percent of adults read at a 5th grade reading level or below, the majority of healthcare materials are written at the 10th grade level or higher.

“The purpose of our study was to determine parents’ knowledge about pediatric fluoroscopic procedures and potential risk from ionizing radiation before and after being given an informational brochure,” Gebhard and colleagues wrote. “In addition, we sought feedback from participants regarding the brochure to further improve its content and design.”

For the study, the researchers reviewed 120 randomly selected responses from parents of pediatric patients undergoing diagnostic fluoroscopic exams. These participants were given a questionnaire assessing their knowledge of the procedure, radiation exposure and whether the patient had a prior exam before and after receiving an informational brochure.

The brochure contained a definition of fluoroscopy, examination names, what to expect after the exam, as well as photographs of the equipment, anatomic diagrams and comparisons of radiation from fluoroscopy versus other imaging exams.

The study cohort was mostly women (79 percent), English speaking (99 percent), and white (90 percent) with an education level higher than 12th grade (76 percent).

The research team found that participant knowledge increased after the brochure for those without a previous examination from 38.3 to 63.4 (total test score) and from 46.3 to 61.8 (total test score) with a prior examination.

Post-brochure correct answers were higher than pre-brochure in the following areas:

  • Examination name
  • Procedure details
  • Use of radiation
  • Radiation dose comparison

Overall, 99 percent of the participants rated the brochure as “great” or “good.”

“Low health literacy in adults has been associated with increased hospitalizations and emergency department visits, poorer ability to interpret medication labels, and increased mortality in elderly patients,” the authors wrote.

Gebhard and team concluded that providing health information in a manner that patients from various educational backgrounds can comprehend is vital in allowing patients to participate in informed decision making.

“Participants were overwhelmingly pleased with the design of the brochure and the information it provided,” they wrote. “As partners with our patients and their families in health care and with a renewed emphasis on patient centered care, now may be the time for providers of imaging services to reliably distribute a simple brochure before all pediatric fluoroscopic imaging procedures.”