Tools for Clear Communication: PEMAT and the Clear Communication Index

Cynthia Baur, PhD

Cynthia Baur, PhD

Cynthia Baur presented two tools to evaluate patient education materials — the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool (PEMAT) and the CDC’s Clear Communication Index (Index), both of which are free. The goals of the tools are to help users ensure their materials are understandable and drive the patient to action.

The PEMAT helps untrained lay and health professionals assess the understandability and actionability of print and audiovisual health information materials. The PEMAT does not assess accuracy, comprehensiveness or cultural appropriateness, or perform readability tests; it is a standardized approach to clarity.

There are two PEMATs:  PEMAT-P for printable materials, with 17 items that address understandability — including content, word choice, visuals and design; and 7 items for actionability — how to use the information and take action. PEMAT-A/V is for audiovisual materials (understandability:  13 items, actionability:  4 items).  Downloadable at www.ahrq.gov/pemat , the PEMAT consists of a user guide and a fillable score sheet, where you rate the material:  Disagree, Agree, N/A, enter the ratings and interpret the scores.

The Clear Communication Index consists of four questions and 20 items based in communication and related sciences that staff can use to develop, assess, and score the clarity of communication materials. With this tool, staff can develop new material or assess an existing one. Materials are scored in seven areas: main message and call to action, language, information design, state of the science, behavioral recommendations, numbers and risk. The CCI can be downloaded at www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/ClearCommunicationIndex/.

Baur led the audience in learning about Index items, what they mean, and how to apply them. The items incorporate plain language, numeracy, and risk communication principles, as well as core communication concepts such as main message and primary audience. She then applied the Index to some sample materials.