Most clinicians already know that it’s helpful, when explaining a medical condition or diagnosis to patient, to be able to hand over some informative education material. But how much thought have you given those little brochures over the past few years?
Nice as it is to have a stock portfolio of accessible handouts, it’s detrimental to your patient’s experience to be handed an outdated one-sheeter that reads like an afterthought.
Putting some time and effort into your health education materials can make a big difference to your patients. Learn why it’s so important to customize your own content and how to make effective resources with minimal trouble.
Why You Should Customize
Patients notice the small touches when they visit your office – which is why outdated waiting room magazines are so often cited on surveys as a negative influencer on the patient experience.
Giving decades-old health education materials to your patients is like handing them one of those outdated magazines and expecting them to take it home, read it, care about its message, and hang on to it for reference. If you haven’t put much thought into that handout, why should they?
Your patients are more likely to pay attention to a thoughtfully written, well designed, personalized piece of literature from your practice. It shows that you cared enough about the patient’s mental takeaway of an encounter to give attention to their physical takeaway. Simply put, it’s just a nice touch.
Customized, branded education materials can also be beneficial for your bottom line, since they function as marketing collateral if your patients share them with friends and family.
How to Go About It
It’s most important for you to have practice-specific materials available that address the diagnoses or conditions your patients encounter on a regular basis. Start your resource overhaul with the most prominent issues, then work your way toward the problems you see less frequently.
Your patient education materials should be specific enough to address a particular issue but broad enough to be useful to the entire subset of your patient population dealing with that issue. Clinicians should use their medical expertise to write the content, taking care to be clear (using plain language), concise (400-600 words should suffice) and nonthreatening (friendly advice and guidance, not scare tactics).
Doctor and Physicians Practice contributor C. Noel Henley, MD suggests that healthcare professionals answer the following questions when writing the content for patient education material on a specific condition:
1. What is the condition?
2. What are the signs/symptoms of the condition?
3. How is the condition diagnosed?
4. How is the condition treated?
Close each article by directing patients where to go online – or in person, in the case of things like disease testing – for further information, and list what numbers to call in case of emergency.
Accuracy is important to ensuring your patient education materials are credible to your patients, so make sure written content is reviewed by a second person who is knowledgeable about the issue addressed.
Have your materials laid out by a capable employee or designer; heavy inclusion of your logo and practice contact information is encouraged. Lastly, always have your handouts checked by an editor, proofreader or detail-oriented staffer before sending them off to the printer.
Resources That Reap Benefits
Once you’ve created helpful, branded content, you may find that it comes in handy for more than just passing off to a patient by hand.
When appropriate, you can use handouts dually as promotional and educational material, like if a hair salon in your city wants to have pamphlets about mammograms available to customers during Breast Cancer awareness month.
Or, if you’re expanding your online presence, use the written content of your handouts on your practice’s Resources page or in a blog post. The more widely available you make the information, the greater visibility you bring your business – and the condition you address.
And doing that is something you should feel good about. Studies show that U.S. healthcare costs resulting from poor health literacy add up to as much as $238 billion per year. Lowering that total requires that a much greater focus be put on educating patients about their bodies, conditions and diagnoses.
Providing your patients with more thoughtful, informative, accessible resources is one small step toward the heightened health literacy that could improve patient outcomes and lower the costs of healthcare in America.
Can the outdated patient education brochures in your waiting room do that?
Do you use great health awareness handouts at your practice? If yes, let us see them! We’d love to share examples of practice-specific patient education materials here on Power Your Practice. Email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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