A recent post entitled Understandably So? discussed how many patient education materials are written at a reading level beyond what most people can understand. If you are someone creating patient education materials, your reaction may have been, “OK, smartie pants, how exactly do I do that?”
Here are some tips for creating reader friendly patient education materials for when you need to make it understandable:
For any communication, regardless of level or language, the key is to be clear and concise. Don’t use many words where few will suffice or an SAT word when a simple word conveys the same meaning.
Along those lines, don’t overwhelm your patient with too much information. Don’t distract the patient from your point or the call to action you hope to create. Keep your message simple.
Know who your target audience is and understand how best to reach them. Culture plays a part here too. It is not a homogenous entity separated by specific characteristics. One is not just “Asian.” Asians may also be Catholic, Liberal or poor. Culture is affected by economic, political, psychological and biological conditions and differs with age, gender, class, religion ethnicity and personality. Define specifically who your audience is and speak to them directly.
When all else fails, remove some of the need for “readability” from your text by inserting more interactive content like video clips, simple charts or graphics to convey meaning. Clearly defining your audience is beneficial here as well. Older generations tend to prefer charts and blocks of text whereas a twenty-somethings are comfortable with video clips and scan codes that provide additional information.
Look at the visual layout of your materials. Is it long and full of big blocks of small text? Does it look like proxy material from a stock portfolio? Reading your materials should be educational, not a full time job.
Evaluate your materials before, during and after implementation by getting feedback from a few select people in your target audience. Do they understand what you are trying to communicate? If not, go back to the drawing board. Don’t be afraid to make changes as you go along tailoring your message for your audience.
Creating a simple, direct, meaningful communication easily accessible by your target audience allows you to connect and educate a patient population that otherwise might not have received your message. Only you can make it so.