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Patient Education: Document Design, Medium, and Distribution

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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.