This complexity may be thwarting the patients' rights movement, which emerged about four decades ago, the researchers noted.
"The aspirations of this whole movement are not going to be met, including a whole host of things that require that each patient become activated, informed consumers," Paasche-Orlow said. "The implementation of this particular part of that patients' rights movement has been a failure, because patients are not activated or empowered by these documents."
In 2006, the hospital association replaced its original bill of rights with the "Patient Care Partnership," which reads at the eighth-grade level and is available in several languages.
Storey noted that, when preparing consent forms for people considering or being recruited to participate in clinical trials, his institution generally uses an eighth-grade reading level, which is common elsewhere.
The American Hospital Association has more on communicating with patients.
SOURCES: Michael K. Paasche-Orlow, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor, medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston; J. Douglas Storey, associate director, Communication Science & Research at The Health Communication Partnership, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore; American Hospital Association statement; February 2009 Journal of General Internal Medicine, online
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