OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

Contributors: Caroline Jennings.
Summary:

This resource contains strategies and examples for crafting patient education documents. It explains medical data collection and audience awareness concerning readers in hospitals and clinics. Additionally, the source pays special attention to pamphlet organization and patient terminology.

Patient Education Materials

Patient information documents assist patients in performing medical decisions regarding medication, hospitalization, treatment options, and patients’ rights and responsibilities. For instance, a patient recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis will likely read a patient education document explaining possible treatment options in an accessible tone and organization designed to put the patient at ease with different medical procedures. The document should outline and describe the benefits and disadvantages to physical therapy vs. medication, and reference contact information, such as clinic addresses and telephone number at the end of the document. These pamphlets should demonstrate expertise with medical terminology while recognizing readers as a lay audience.

Patient information leaflets should also include the latest research results regarding specific conditions, contact information for certain clinics, and full names rather than abbreviations for certain health agencies. These documents must be patient-focused in their presentation; writers should consider that these documents are designed to supplement patient/doctor interactions. In addition, these documents should offer patients instructions, not suggestions. The patient should be guided to make positive decisions regarding their healthcare in a manner consistent with the guidelines set out by the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA).

Consider the Context

Before crafting a document, writers should take time to prepare for research and consider the healthcare environment and demographic. Writers should assess whether the materials will be written for a hospital setting, with multiple departments, or for clinics that house less separate offices. If the document will be circulated in a large regional hospital with many departments, writers should consider including information on common patient demographics who visit area hospitals and clinics. Medical writers may refer to research on that healthcare site’s patient accessibility or read the clinic’s mission statement to deduce any specific patient demographic, such as certain minority groups or patients with certain conditions. Before developing these materials, writers should:

  1. Conduct inquiries with healthcare agencies about informational materials on treatment options requested by patients.
  2. Ask providers whether different patient demographics have consistently asked the same questions about treatment options to avoid duplicate materials.  
  3. Ask if providers are looking for more updated materials to distribute to their patients.
Contributors: Caroline Jennings.
Summary:

This resource contains strategies and examples for crafting patient education documents. It explains medical data collection and audience awareness concerning readers in hospitals and clinics. Additionally, the source pays special attention to pamphlet organization and patient terminology.

Patient Education: Organization and Style

Organization

Educational documents should organize the patient’s options in a cause/effect schema. Writers from NHS Shetland suggest the following organization for a pamphlet:

  1. What is an XYZ test?
  2. Why do I need it?
  3. What preparation is needed?
  4. How is the test carried out? Are there any after-effects?
  5. When and from whom do I get the results?
  6. Who do I contact if I have any questions or problems? (So You Want)

Stylistic Features

Writers should strive for jargon-free language that establishes a personal connection to the patient-reader. Utilizing a personable, second-person voice facilitates a conversational quality in the pamphlet. Additionally, writers should avoid medicalized, jargon-heavy language that could potentially distance or alienate the patient from making informed decisions on treatment and medication options. In terms of grammar, the writer should avoid passive voice not simply for the sake of clarity, but to also affirm a patient’s autonomy. Writers should consider incorporating a question/answer format. Doing so will establish a conversational quality to the document, and this structure should implicitly reference the relationship between the healthcare and patient, in which both parties should exchange medical information freely. The examples below illustrate how a medical writer might revise excerpts from a patient information document.

First Draft:

Example 1: After the initial consultation, patients have the option to be directed to physical therapy services. Physical therapy procedures may include sessions designed to increase mobility. Contact this following service for a PT consultation: St. Gregory Hospital at 800-556-8790.

Revised Draft:

Who Can Physical Therapy Do for Me?

Physical therapy for multiple sclerosis may provide relief in mobility function, reduction in joint pain, and assistance from breathing difficulties. Possible treatment options may include stretches and aquatic therapy, as well as yoga. After your initial consultation, your PT will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve your treatment goals. Call us today to receive your consultation: St. Gregory Hospital at 800-556-8790.

Contributors: Caroline Jennings.
Summary:

This resource contains strategies and examples for crafting patient education documents. It explains medical data collection and audience awareness concerning readers in hospitals and clinics. Additionally, the source pays special attention to pamphlet organization and patient terminology.

Patient Education: Document Design, Medium, and Distribution

Document Design

Because these documents are composed and distributed to a lay audience, writers should consult design features that explain the steps patients should take to address their health decisions. The layout mimics flowcharts and infographics and establishes a chronological path from the initial consultation to the anticipated outcome following treatment plans. Whether the writer communicates the instructions primarily through text (i.e. bullet point lists) or more elaborate organization (paragraph structure), he or she should include concrete steps for the patient to follow. Medical writers should consider utilizing a question/answer format to structure an appearance of an informal conversation between clinician and patient.

Font should be large to accommodate readers with visual impairments and/or limitations, preferably at least 12-point size font on a page that utilizes lots of white space. Writers should also consider incorporating larger subheadings to distinguish between sections in bolded lettering or italics. Moreover, writers should reference any statistics and other research findings in either infographic form or through a simplified graph or table with a short, follow-up description that explains the findings’ relation to the patient’s condition. Statistics should be current, and account for the proper patient demographic.

Publication Medium and Distribution

Patient information leaflets are circulated in private doctors’ offices and clinic waiting rooms. These materials are intended for brief, cursory reading in waiting rooms or these materials are handed to the patient as the healthcare provider informs the patient of treatment options during consultations. Because of their instructive focus, these pamphlets should be direct in their language, and utilize design features for readability and accessibility. Consider geographic locations and various healthcare settings in both the document’s composition and distribution stages:

  1. Conduct research on the targeted healthcare facility and its document needs.
  2. Consider the different healthcare settings (women’s health clinic vs. occupational therapy clinic).
  3. Assess whether duplicate materials exist in the designated geographic area.
Contributors: Caroline Jennings.
Summary:

This resource contains strategies and examples for crafting patient education documents. It explains medical data collection and audience awareness concerning readers in hospitals and clinics. Additionally, the source pays special attention to pamphlet organization and patient terminology.

Patient Education: Works Cited and Additional Resources

Works Cited

“American Medical Writers Association.” American Medical Writers Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Barton, David, and Uta Papen. The Anthropology of Writing: Understanding Textually Mediated Worlds. London: Continuum, 2010. Print.

So You Want to Write a Patient Information Leaflet? NHS Shetland, 2014. PDF file.

Programme, MMUH Elective Surgery, and Patient Information Leaflets. "Developing Patient Information Leaflets - Guideline." (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 4 Mar. 2016.

“Scottish Government.” Scottish Health Survey 2012. Scottish Government, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Unknown. Appendix 2 A Guide to Producing Patient Information. N.p.: Unknown, n.d. CPI: Career and Patient Information. Web. 5 Mar. 2016.

“Written Information: General Guidance.” NHS Brand Guidelines. NHS, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Additional Resources

Aldridge, Michael D. “Writing and Designing Readable Patient Education Materials.” Nephrology Nursing Journal (2004): 373-77. PubMed.org. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“AMA Manual of Style.” AMA Manual of Style. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“American Medical Writers Association.” American Medical Writers Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“BioMed Central.” BioMed Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Farrell-Miller, Pamela, and Paula Gentry. “How Effective Are Your Patient Education Materials? Guidelines for Developing and Evaluating Written Educational Materials.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

“Get Started.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Hoffmann, Tammy, and Linda Worrall. “Designing Effective Written Health Education Materials: Considerations for Health Professionals.” Disability and Rehabilitation 26.19 (2004): 1166-173. Taylor&FrancisOnline. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“Medical Dictionaries, Drugs & Medical Searches.” Medical Dictionary, Medical Abbreviations and Other Search Engines. MediLexicon International Ltd, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

Rogers, Silvia M. Mastering Scientific and Medical Writing: A Self-help Guide. Berlin: Springer, 2007. Print.

Stuart, Mark C. The Complete Guide to Medical Writing. London: Pharmaceutical, 2007. Print.

Taylor, Robert B., and Robert B. Taylor. Medical Writing: A Guide for Clinicians, Educators, and Researchers. New York: Springer, 2011. Print.

Wilson, Feleta L., and Barbara N. Williams. "Assessing the Readability of Skin Care and Pressure Ulcer Patient Education Materials." Journal of WOCN 30.4 (2003): 224-30. ResearchGate. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.

“Writing Guides and Style Manuals in the Biological and Health Sciences.” Health Sciences Libraries. University of Minnesota, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.