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Patient Education: Organization and Style

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Educational documents should organize the patient’s options in a cause/effect schema. Writers from NHS Shetland suggest the following organization for a pamphlet:

  1. What is an XYZ test?
  2. Why do I need it?
  3. What preparation is needed?
  4. How is the test carried out? Are there any after-effects?
  5. When and from whom do I get the results?
  6. Who do I contact if I have any questions or problems? (So You Want)

Stylistic Features

Writers should strive for jargon-free language that establishes a personal connection to the patient-reader. Utilizing a personable, second-person voice facilitates a conversational quality in the pamphlet. Additionally, writers should avoid medicalized, jargon-heavy language that could potentially distance or alienate the patient from making informed decisions on treatment and medication options. In terms of grammar, the writer should avoid passive voice not simply for the sake of clarity, but to also affirm a patient’s autonomy. Writers should consider incorporating a question/answer format. Doing so will establish a conversational quality to the document, and this structure should implicitly reference the relationship between the healthcare and patient, in which both parties should exchange medical information freely. The examples below illustrate how a medical writer might revise excerpts from a patient information document.

First Draft:

Example 1: After the initial consultation, patients have the option to be directed to physical therapy services. Physical therapy procedures may include sessions designed to increase mobility. Contact this following service for a PT consultation: St. Gregory Hospital at 800-556-8790.

Revised Draft:

Who Can Physical Therapy Do for Me?

Physical therapy for multiple sclerosis may provide relief in mobility function, reduction in joint pain, and assistance from breathing difficulties. Possible treatment options may include stretches and aquatic therapy, as well as yoga. After your initial consultation, your PT will work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve your treatment goals. Call us today to receive your consultation: St. Gregory Hospital at 800-556-8790.