Not long ago I was reviewing a piece of patient education material that was due for revision. It was long, dry, and read like my seventh grade health ed textbook. It didn’t work.
Then I thought to myself, what if this were written like some of the successful websites that I visit every day? What if our education material had the flair of Buzzfeed, Mashable and others?
These writers and editors understand how to shape and present information. They’ve made a science of editorial design and a business of understanding how people consume information. They recognize that how we deliver information is as important as the content itself.
But as far as I know, these tactics have never been translated to patient communication. Health communication is critical. Yet we rarely think about how we put together what we need to get across.
The best sites …
- Make it short. The more we write, the harder it is to get a reader through to the end. If patients never consume it, there’s no chance they’ll get what they need.
- Make it subdivided. Break writing up into major subheadings and points. This sort of editorial design makes content easier to navigate and understand.
- Use killer headlines. Pique the curiosity of the reader or patient.
- Write like we speak. It’s time to rethink the requisite 4th grade level writing that has dominated patient education. Look at the voice of the best writers on these sites and you see a human, approachable voice that’s real.
- Make their stuff compelling and useful. While this is easier said than done, we should make what we write engaging and practical with applicability to the consumer.
We’re so used to seeing poorly designed health information that this idea might be hard to process. But perhaps it’s time we took a lesson from the textbooks of the most trafficked content producers on the web and apply it to helping a patient understand what they need to know.
I’m planning to experiment with an editorial reformatting of some of my materials based on what seems to work. I’ll keep you posted.