Creating Patient Education Content
October 18, 2016
I’ve recently written about the concept of pharma and device companies reaching the patient via the practice. A big part of this concept is that practices need to work with a marketing company who can help them reach more of the right patients. However, practices need to have the right information to provide to patients when they reach those patients.
That’s where patient education comes in. Your physicians and surgeons need to be able to provide information to patients about their conditions, as well as how your medication or device is used in the treatment process. If physicians have the right information to be able to provide to their patients, it can be a win for everyone. The physician wins because patients are more informed to make the right health decisions, so he or she will see more patients who can benefit from treatment. This, in turn, is a win for your company and sales reps because you’re selling more devices and medications. Most importantly, it’s a win for the patients because they will have what they need to be able to make important decisions about their healthcare.
Over the nearly 20 years Mudbug Media has been in existence, I’ve learned a lot about what patients and practices need from patient education. We’ve even written our own patient education content for our clients to provide to patients on their websites. That content was based on these three ideas:
1. Patient education should be chronological and follow the entire continuum of care.
When patients are searching for information about their health, they are often starting off by trying to find out whether or not they have a condition to begin with. This is why your patient education should be in chronological order and follow the continuum of care to be the most effective.
If you lead with information about treatment with your medication or device, you may not be giving the patient what he or she most needs in that moment. That patient may not be at that point yet; you have to start at the beginning of the process, then work your way down to more specific information. This not only helps patients get the information they need, but also helps to vet patients for your physicians and surgeons, ensuring that they are seeing more patients who are informed and ready for treatment.
Most patients start looking for information because they’ve noticed certain symptoms. With that in mind, a patient is likely to take the following path in seeking information:
- “Do these symptoms indicate that I have [condition]?”
- “If I do think that I have [condition], at what point should I seek medical attention?”
- “If I need treatment for [condition], what options are available?”
- “If I need [treatment option], how does it work?”
- “What do I need to know about before and after treatment?”
As you can see, we’re not getting into talking about your treatment option until the patient is much further into the process. However, it makes more sense to introduce that information toward the end of the information seeking process because that is when the patient is most likely to need that information. Keep that in mind when writing up patient education so that your content guides patients through that information-seeking process.
2. The content needs to be easy to read.
When your content walks patients through that decision-making process, you’re providing a lot of useful information. Ordering the information chronologically is helpful in helping patients understand the information, but you should also look for opportunities to make the information easier to read throughout.
Shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences, headings, and subheadings will make it easier for patients to quickly scan content to find the information they are looking for. Improving the readability helps patients read and understand the content more quickly. If needed, images and videos can also be helpful in illustrating your points and breaking up the text.
3. Be informative, but simplify the concepts as much as possible.
You’re writing this content for physicians to provide to patients. The goal of patient education is to help patients understand their conditions and treatments. This in turn helps your physicians explain these concepts to patients. It reinforces and expands upon what physicians say to patients during office visits. Ideally, patients who read the content are better informed and better equipped to make the right decisions.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that patients don’t use medical terminology in their everyday lives. The more you can simplify the content, the easier it will be for them to understand. Be as specific as possible, but try to avoid heavy use of medical terminology wherever you can. Make it easy for patients to quickly read the information and find the answers to their questions.
The main goal of patient education is right in the name—you’re working to educate patients so that they are empowered to make health decisions and. When you can provide this information to your physicians, they’ll see more of the right patients—the patients who know they need treatment. This helps you sell more of your product, because your physicians and surgeons are connecting with more patients who will benefit from the treatment. It’s a win for everyone.