ADVERTISEMENT

When Websites And Apps Fall Short: Using Plain Language To Increasing User Comprehension Of Online Cancer Clinical Trial Information

The importance of clinical trial participation to the advancement of cancer research cannot be overstated. Yet, oncology-focused clinical trials often struggle to enroll sufficient numbers of diverse participants. As a means of disseminating information regarding open and enrolling trials, cancer centers throughout the United States have created clinical trial websites and online applications.

Information published to these publicly available and searchable online resources is typically drawn from scientific databases containing high level, oncology-specific text. This presents a barrier to individuals from the general public, who find cancer clinical trial information online, but cannot comprehend it, and therefore do not act upon it.

ADVERTISEMENT

A study conducted by the Office of Patient and Public Education at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Cleveland, Ohio tested whether incorporating brief, plain language study descriptions within online, publicly available clinical trial information, aided user comprehension of basic trial details. ¬†An iterative research design was used involving a convenience sample of 217 adult volunteers, from the general public, who were na√Įve to cancer clinical trials.

A user testing method was applied in which volunteers were asked to read plain language ‚Äúabout this study‚ÄĚ cancer trial descriptions and answer questions about; a. the type of cancer being studied, b. the type of treatment being studied, and c. basic inclusion/exclusion criteria (i.e. who can participate in the trial).¬† After one round of testing was completed, plain language trial descriptions were edited based on volunteer feedback and observed comprehension difficulties. ¬†A second, and third round of testing, using subsequently edited plain language study descriptions, was conducted with new volunteers, and data compiled regarding comprehension results.

The brief plain language trial descriptions resulted in (on average); a. 95% comprehension of cancer type being studied, b. 70% comprehension of treatment being studied, and c. 87% comprehension of basic inclusion/exclusion criteria. ¬†This suggests that plain language trial descriptions can aid general public comprehension of the type of cancer being studied and inclusion criteria. ¬†Plain language descriptions were found less effective for comprehension of treatment methods being used. ¬†This may be due to volunteer naivet√© regarding cancer clinical trials, and the general concept of ‚Äútreatment‚ÄĚ, as well as natural tendency to focus more on the disease condition and less upon the methods being studied to treat it.

This study reinforces the need for easily understandable, plain language to be incorporated into publicly available cancer clinical trial information, to aid general public comprehension of trial basics. Comprehension of basic clinical trial details could, theoretically, encourage users to act upon the information they find online, through various means, such as a call to the cancer center, or speaking to their physician about certain trials.  Further study is needed regarding more effective language and/or sentence structure to aid comprehension of treatments being studied.

ADVERTISEMENT

These findings are described in the article entitled Evaluating the Use of Plain Language in a Cancer Clinical Trial Website/App, published in the Journal of Cancer Education. This work was led by Paula L. Schultz from University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.

Comments

READ THIS NEXT

Researcher Discover Mysterious Radio Wave Signal From Unknown Source Deep In Space

Researchers from British Columbia’s CHIME (Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment) discovered a new mysterious radio wave signal coming from space. […]

Ancient Lost City Discovered In Field In Kansas

Yes, you read that headline correctly. Normally when one thinks of lost cities, they picture crumbling ruins in a dense […]

Polarized Vs Non Polarized Sunglasses: The Science Behind Polarization

If you‚Äôve stopped by a store and looked all the various sunglasses that are for sale, you‚Äôve probably noticed that […]

What Is Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate?

Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, sometimes called Sodium bicarbonate, and commonly known as baking soda is a common chemical compound with a […]

An Old Problem And The Lives Of Hemophiliacs With Recurrent Hemorrhages

The Problem Finding the ways in which changes in the genetic material (genotype) affects the structure and function of a […]

Probiotics: Potentially Problematic Or Possibly Pointless

A recent study performed by scientists from the¬†Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel was conducted to determine the effects of […]

Neglected Compounds: PNO Type Ligands For Asymmetric Transfer Hydrogenation Reactions

Everyone has noticed the difference between a pair of gloves and a pair of socks. A sock, like its partner, […]

Science Trends is a popular source of science news and education around the world. We cover everything from solar power cell technology to climate change to cancer research. We help hundreds of thousands of people every month learn about the world we live in and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Want to know more?