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Patient Education Materials

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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.