I’m a Patient and I Read Like a Seventh Grader: This Is Your Problem

July 25, 2013
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Your patient can be your friend and advocate

Sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals are influenced by patients. Patients can help promote a brand by letting physicians know about it and talking about it with their friends on- or off-line. Patients can even agree to receive a certain treatment or participate in a clinical study based on their understanding of the way a product could advance their health.

Just look at the following statistics:

Your patient can be your friend and advocate

Sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals are influenced by patients. Patients can help promote a brand by letting physicians know about it and talking about it with their friends on- or off-line. Patients can even agree to receive a certain treatment or participate in a clinical study based on their understanding of the way a product could advance their health.

Just look at the following statistics:

  • 40% of consumers say that information they have found on social media sites affects the way that they manage their health
  • 42% of consumers use the internet to look up reviews for treatments and products
  • 34% of patients use the internet to discover new brands
  • 32% of patients use the internet to evaluate specific features of a product

For more information on the subject, see an infographic about how patients and healthcare providers use social media. If you are really keen on infographics, here is another one about the patient journey when selecting a treatment facility.

What needs to be taken into account is the patient’s experience and this means promoting the patient understanding of your product.

Patient understanding and literacy is not as high as you may think

The average patient that reads health information is not as literate as you mPatient understanding low when reading medical brochureay have come to believe. Patient understanding and comprehension is in fact extremely low.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine assesses readability of patient education resources found online. The research determined that such materials often are too complex for their intended audience. The main reason is that the average American adult reads at approximately a seventh- to- eighth-grade level.

An average patient would get completely lost in the endless jargon a medical marketer puts in his communications materials. Information that medical devices companies promote is highly technical and feature based. We often see that doctors cannot comprehend these densely written, jargon-filled brochures and one-pagers. So what about patients?

Some words that seem extremely clear for a medical marketer may not be understood by patients. “Simple” words such as benign, terminal, or hypertension may not be as clear as you believe, according to the Agency of HealthCare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

As it turns out, some disciplines perform worse than others. Of the 16 medical disciplines researched, the quality of writing in obstetrics and gynecology materials was especially full of clichés and grammar mistakes.

Want positive feedback on your product? Promote patient understanding and experience.

Do the following:

  • Write content especially designed for patients – If you do not have a patient section in your medical site, build one now. Having such a section will increase your products’ appeal, promote patient understanding and create a positive patient experience, which is what you want.
  • Explain your product in plain English – Start by removing buzzwords and writing in language that isn’t technical but rather appealing to the readers. Explain your devices’ benefits and the drawbacks of the solutions offered by your competitors in the simplest terms.
  • Give the patient collateral to a 15 year old. Before you print or publish on your website, give the material to a 15 year old to read. Did he understand it? If he did, chances are your patient will understand it too. Industry sources claim that the level of materials should be aimed to the comprehension levels of a sixth grader!
  • Use a lot of pictures – Do not stuff your materials with a lot of text. Use pictures if you can, even hiring a professional photographer if you can afford one. There is actually quite a lot to learn from the medical aesthetics industry, which uses before and after pictures extensively.
  • Use videos – 25% of U.S. adults watch videos and product information related to healthcare . Watching is so much easier than reading. Create patient videos to optimize the patient experience and accommodate to patient needs. Share these on your website and on YouTube.
  • Keep them engaged – Motivate patients to share the information about your device to pique physicians’ curiosity. There are several ways this can be done, which we will cover in a future post.

For now, remember that your patient is interested – he or she just might not have the background to understand complicated medical marketing communications materials. Write it well, without jargon or unnecessary complicated language, and you’ll have satisfied and better informed patients—and advocates.

Picture by pedrosimoes7

 

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