Administration of the rapid estimate of adult literacy in medicine via telephone

Michelle L. Vitko, Autumn Locklear, Izabela E. Annis, Daniel S. Reuland, Betsy L. Sleath, Michael S. Wolf, Stacy Cooper Bailey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Over a third of adults in the United States have limited health literacy, which has been associated with numerous negative health outcomes and high health care costs. Most commonly used, objective measures of patients’ literacy skills have traditionally been administered in person. This study assessed the feasibility of administering the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) via telephone. METHODS: A total of 119 participants were recruited after participating in a separate study where the REALM was administered in person. After approximately 1 week, patients were sent copies of the REALM prompt via mail and, when provided, email. A research assistant called participants approximately 1 week later to determine if the REALM had been received and could be accessed for use during the call. Multiple attempts to reach participants were made; 84 participants were able to successfully complete the study, yielding a response rate of 70.6%. The REALM was then administered over the phone, and results were compared with the scores from the in-person administration. RESULTS: There was a high correlation between both assessments (Spearman=0.85). The agreement between literacy categories (low, marginal, and adequate) between the in-person and telephone- based assessments was also high at 84.5% (kappa=0.72). Participants who completed the study were older than participants who did not complete the study, more likely to be white, and less likely to be currently working. CONCLUSIONS: The findings from this study indicate the REALM can be administered over the phone, providing alternative methodologies for literacy assessments in future studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-14
Number of pages5
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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