Patient-centred writing

Medicine is evolving at an ever-increasing rate and getting more complex. It is no surprise that the transfer of medical knowledge to target audiences (i.e. patients) will consequently become more challenging. Medical content aimed at patients must not only comply with clinical standards and follow publication guidelines but should also convey information in a concise, relevant and captivating fashion. No matter how complex the subject is, patient-friendly writing needs to inform, engage and instruct while at the same avoid any jargon. Organisations such as the European Patient Forum are making sure that patients are well informed and fully involved in the decision-making process.

The importance of Patient information

High-quality information can empower the patient to be more aware of health issues. It can result in a faster response to health problems and subsequently an earlier diagnosis of many diseases.

A well-informed patient feels more in control and is able to participate in the decision-making.

Every provider of health-related information has a duty to ensure that patients receive evidence-based information of high standard. Inadequate info might result in false hope, increase the patient’s distress and could affect their decision making negatively.

Medical translations

6 Tips to Create easy-to-read Content for Patients

1. Empathise
Put yourself in the shoes of the patient!
Easy-to-read patient material is “not so easy” to create. Like any kind of writing, it gets better with practice especially by constantly asking the question “In what way is my writing relevant or useful to the patient”.

2. Write simple
Creating scientific content with simple words is only possible if the author comprehends the subject matter to a degree where he or she is able to explain it to a primary school kid. It is better to write, ‘If you don’t take the correct dose, it could lead to abnormal salt levels in the blood’ than ‘Inappropriate dosing could negatively affect the serum electrolyte balance’.
One of the most frequent questions of a patient or relative is “why?” or “what has caused it?” Explaining the causation to patients and caregivers can be quite a minefield. Here again, the author should have a profound knowledge of the aetiology. A patient often believes that one thing caused another because the two things occur together. Misconceptions of that order can only be resolved with evidence-based information.

3. Do not assume
Not only should the information you provide give answers to the patients’ most common and fundamental questions but the writing should also encourage them to ask pertinent questions to their physicians.

4. Instructing readers
State clearly what actions you want the readers to take by using concrete nouns and an active voice.

5. Use Graphics
Visuals are a great help to absorb information more efficiently, it is crucial in maintaining a good balance of text and visuals.

6. Get Feedback
The best way to ensure that materials are easy-to-read is by getting feedback from the public and have them actively taking part in the process. Readability testing is one of the ways to ensure comprehensibility. Each drug information leaflets (PILs) in the EU is required to undergo through such user testing.

doctor holding patient's hand

Facilitating an Informed Decision

A medical text aimed at the general public has passed its efficacy test if a high proportion of readers retains its information. Content that is well understood by patients results in the better recall of information and increased patients’ satisfaction; leading to greater therapy adherence and overall better health outcomes.
Today, the patient is no longer a passive recipient who does what he or she is told. Patients want to make their own decision – an informed decision. And for this to happen, we need medical writers and translators who are facilitating th transfer of information in a precise yet easy-to-understand way.

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