Too much jargon is a problem across all specialties in healthcare.
Yet for many patients and caregivers, online content through a patient website is an important way to learn about health problems, symptoms and treatments. Many times they have serious medical decisions to make for themselves and their loved ones, and it’s important for them to have a patient website or blog that is useful and easy to understand.
Unfortunately, after navigating from one patient website to another, people often don’t find website content that is easy to understand. A lot of healthcare content on the web is simply too complex to be of any use to those who need it most.
Connect to Educate
There are a few good blogs and patient websites that help patients and their families to face a serious illness or medical crisis. Mayo Clinic, WebMD and Cleveland Clinic come to mind.
What these patient websites have in common is their user-friendly interface; super-helpful and easy-to-understand information; relevant topics; appealing visuals; and an overall meaningful experience that boosts engagement and conversion.
However, this is not the case for many healthcare providers whose content is highly unreadable. The same JAMA study warns that a lack of readability not only makes it difficult for patients to understand, but potentially contributes to their poor health since they’re unable to act upon given instructions or advice.
You can’t expect to reach patients online if you are not crafting a content development strategy that speaks to their needs and is in the right format. It’s very important for companies to be cognizant of the switch from content that is targeted to health care professionals to creating content for patients. You can’t possibly expect patients to consume the same information or find the same website helpful. When you create content for physicians and other health care professionals, you are writing for the people who commit their lives to understanding these health conditions and how to treat them. A patient may have little to no previous knowledge about the products and services you are offering. This is why it is imperative that you know your audience when creating a patient website.
Tips for a More Readable Direct to Patient Website or Blog
The American Medical Association and National Institutes of Health recommend that patient education materials be written at fourth to sixth-grade reading level.
In addition, one of the best ways to create useful and readable content is to extensively research your readers by creating patient personas. Patient personas are comprehensive profiles that help you to understand your patients’ needs, challenges, and unique lifestyle issues so that the content you generate is highly targeted to them, thus producing desired outcomes.
Easy tips to follow:
Keep sentences short and concise
Use analogies to describe a medical problem
Use bullet points, images, videos, and other visual enhancements
Make sure images support text content to avoid confusion
Use simple graphics and design elements that are well-executed to produce a positive user perception
Use large font for the visually impaired
Avoid using clichés especially those that are region-specific
Use bullet points as much as possible
Ask for and listen to user feedback about your blog content
If your audience includes communities that have low-literacy skills, consider including an audio-visual interface such as voice-overs of all text, closed-captions for the hearing impaired, etc., on your website to enhance communication and help connect with the largest number of patients possible.
Remember too that health provider blogs are meant to educate patients, caregivers and other consumers about their health. Ask yourself whether your website or blog is meeting patients at their level. If not, consider a website audit and possible revisions to increase the quality and readability of your patient resources. Improve your online presence and check to make sure that your website is healthy. You may need to provide a physician-centered website and a separate website geared towards patients and their needs. In today’s health care economy, the patient is becoming more powerful than ever in the decision-making process, and you can’t afford to ignore them.
Ready to get started? Contact us to develop your direct to patient website.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2013 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.