Health Dialog Connections

Say What? Simple Steps to Design Better Patient Engagement Materials

A woman reviewing patient health engagement materials

Simply put, provider-patient communications should be as simple as possible. The best health communicators are those that take a few minutes to understand their patient or target audience BEFORE attempting to engage or instruct. The ability to create or select written, oral or graphic elements that match your audience’s understanding comes from learning about their literacy and numeracy skills. After all, the very best part of the provider-patient relationship is when comprehension and successful application take place.

First thing’s first, any and all patient communication should be written in plain and simple language.

Although a common myth is that plain language can be considered insulting, it’s not. Most adults appreciate information that is shared quickly, plainly and honestly; especially if they are managing a stressor such as a chronic condition or caring for someone who has one.  Before presenting your patients or audience with content (written or graphic), ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who will read this?
  2. What is this about?
  3. What does the patient need to know?
  4. Will this material help them do what is asked and explain why it is important?
  5. Does this material answer the questions the patient is likely to have?

After you have answered these questions (and have made revisions to your content) it’s important to examine how the patient engagement materials will be presented. These are four important aspects to consider when you are designing or presenting your information:

  1. Did you remove any complicated medical jargon? Or are the clinical terms clearly explained?
  2. Are you using bullets to create short lists to replace blocks of text?
  3. Can you limit your content to five main points or less? Can you find the main point right away?
  4. Can you replace text with photography or illustrations? Are these elements clear and simple?

Applying plain language principles to your patient materials or direct verbal communication approach can help your organization communicate more effectively. Your patients or audience will experience more clarity, feel empowered, and make the necessary changes needed to effectively manage their health.

Steps You Can Take Today to Avoid Falls” is an example of a patient engagement material created using these best practices.

At Health Dialog we employ cultural sensitivity, health literacy, and behavior change principles to our communication and engagement strategies. Consistent with our whole person approach to total population health management, Health Dialog is committed to ensuring the relevance, appropriateness, and accessibility of our programs, materials, and solutions.

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