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Iris Feinberg:

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One barrier to participating in clinical research is that patients with low literacy skills (1 in 5 US adults) may struggle to understand the informed consent document (ICD). Writing consents using health literacy and plain language guidelines including simplified syntax and semantics can increase understandability and facilitate inclusivity of research populations with literacy challenges. Our study aim was to evaluate a simplified ICD for understandability while considering factors known to relate to comprehension (reading skills and working memory). We performed an on-line survey of 192 adults ages 18–77 in Georgia. Participants performed significantly better on the simplified ICD test. We built an additional model with all version x measure interactions (i.e., age, sex, race, urbanicity, GMVT, WM). This model did not significantly improve model fit, F < 1.00, suggesting that individual differences did not moderate the effect of simplification. Our findings suggest that using plain language and simplified syntax and semantics in ICD as a universal precaution may reduce cognitive reading burden for adults regardless of differences in reading skill or working memory. Increasing understandability in ICD may help improve targets for clinical trial enrollment.


Originally published in Feinberg, I.Z., Gajra, A., Hetherington, L. et al. Simplifying informed consent as a universal precaution. Sci Rep 14, 13195 (2024).


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.