Web-based patient education materials and printed pamphlets are frequently used by providers to inform patients about their rheumatic disease. Little attention has been given to the readability and appropriateness of patient materials. The objective of this study was to examine the readability and suitability of commonly used patient education materials for osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and vasculitis.


Five or 6 popular patient resources for each disease were chosen for evaluation. Readability was measured using the Flesch-Kincaid reading grade level and suitability was determined by the Suitability Assessment of Materials (SAM), a score that considers characteristics such as content, graphics, layout/topography, and cultural appropriateness. Three different reviewers rated the SAM score and means were used in the analysis.


Twenty-three resources written on the 4 diseases were evaluated. The education material for all 4 diseases studied had readability above the eighth-grade level and readability did not differ among the diseases. Only 5 of the 23 resources received superior suitability scores, and 3 of these 5 resources were written for OA. All 4 diseases received adequate suitability scores, with OA having the highest mean suitability score.


Most patient education materials for rheumatic diseases are written at readability levels above the recommended sixth-grade reading level and have only adequate suitability. Developing more appropriate educational resources for patients with rheumatic diseases may improve patient comprehension.