AHRQ Tool Helps Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Improve Patient Education Materials
Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City uses AHRQ's Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) to help ensure that health information is presented in ways that are understood and used by patients of varying backgrounds and levels of health literacy.
AHRQ's PEMAT provides a systematic method to evaluate whether patient education materials can be understood and acted upon. For example, a brochure is evaluated based on layout, use of simple sentence structure and active verb tense, and the effectiveness of illustrations.
The educational materials included in MSK's virtual library are reviewed at least every two years by MSK's content experts and health education specialists. Since 2015, the PEMAT has been incorporated into that review process.
MSK's Director of Patient and Caregiver Education, Chasity Burrows Walters, Ph.D., R.N., said, "MSK has a long-standing commitment to providing educational materials that are written at a sixth-grade reading level, but even using a term that's common in cancer care, like ‘chemotherapy,' decreases the readability."
Dr. Walters said the PEMAT is used to complement readability assessments, which are tools that estimate reading comprehension by grade level. "The PEMAT allows us to look beyond readability levels alone," she stated. According to Dr. Walters, MSK's average PEMAT scores, as of February 2016, were 88 percent for understandability and 96 percent for their ability to be used easily.
MSK also uses the PEMAT to guide the development of new educational materials. "Not only have we incorporated the principles of the PEMAT into our editorial style guide, they've also been included into MSK's patient education policy," Dr. Walters said.
In addition, PEMAT is the first tool available that has enabled MSK to evaluate its audio-visual materials. "This component of PEMAT has been very helpful," Dr. Walters said. "While the vast majority of our materials are text-based, we are responding to an increasing demand for video content. The PEMAT has been integral in our efforts to create and evaluate materials in that format."
Because the PEMAT was designed for anyone to use, clinicians, ancillary staff, and former patients have used the tool to evaluate MSK's materials. When surveyed, 92 percent reported that it was easy to use.
"The PEMAT gives us greater precision in the assessment of our materials," she said. "This empowers our patients to make more informed decisions, participate more in their care, and ultimately leads to better outcomes."