Posted By Lexington Writing Firm on 11/02/2021

Reading Levels for Healthcare: How Comprehensible Is Your Content?

Reading Levels for Healthcare: How Comprehensible Is Your Content?

In the United States, most adults read at or below an eighth-grade reading level. Despite this, a 2012 report from the National Center for Biotechnology found that many patient education materials available on the internet are written at high school or college reading levels.

When it comes to healthcare content, the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that all patient education material be written at a sixth-grade or lower reading level, preferably including pictures and illustrations. 

So what exactly is a reading level, and how do you test for it?

Flesch Kincaid 

There are several approved sources used for determining reading levels, the most common being the Flesch Kincaid test. Originally developed in the 1940s and later updated in 1970, Flesch Kincaid readability tests work by taking into account sentence and word counts.  

Sentence length is measured by the average number of words in a sentence, and word length is measured by the average number of syllables in a word. Sentences that contain a lot of words are more difficult to follow than shorter sentences.

The result of the formula is a number that corresponds to a U.S. grade level of education, showing the required education to be able to understand a text.

You can use free online tools to test your content for readability, such as the Flesch Kincaid calculator.

Implementing the Flesch Kincaid 

As a tool, the Flesch Kincaid is a valuable tool for creating patient education materials that are easy to understand. You can use it for:

  • Writing website content 

  • Advertising services and procedures

  • Improving SEO performance

  • Editing content

  • Communicating research to a non-specialist audience

Your content’s readability has a direct impact on the extent to which patients engage with and understand information. Healthcare content with a higher engagement rate has many benefits, including:

  • Decreasing the number of patients who go on your site and then leave

  • Increasing the amount of time a patient spends on your website

It also encourages patients to:

  • Click on calls to action 

  • Book appointments

  • Continue coming back to your website


As a healthcare professional, it’s important to ensure that content is easy to understand to ensure the best health outcomes.

Implementing tools such as the Flesch Kincaid reading level test can support content readability and make sure that patient-facing materials are achieving their goals of both educating and empowering individuals with relevant information. 

At Lexington Writing Firm, we go above and beyond creating content at the best reading level for your audience. Our unique, equity-focused approach is designed to create inclusive, meaningful and humanizing communications that will connect widely and deeply with your patients, physicians, nurses and staff. 

Want to create more inclusive, trust-building content? Email to learn more about our expertise.
Connect with us on LinkedIn and Instagram. You can learn more about our equity-focused approach on our website.

Grace Martin

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