The Process Involved In Designing Effective Patient Handouts

By Laura Gibson

It is increasingly becoming evident that patients who are well educated about their illnesses are likely to adhere to treatment than those who are not. This is likely to result into better outcomes. There are many channels of communication that can be used. Each is associated with a number of benefits and downsides. The choice is usually determined by factors such as cost, accessibility and effectiveness. Patient handouts are increasingly becoming the preferred choice for many centers.

The first thing that one needs to do is to clearly identify their target audience. Audience characteristics have a great influence on the content. They include the type of medical conditions and diseases managed in the facility, the age and gender of patients and the aim of the message. To understand these aspects, there is a need to conduct research in the preparation stage. In some cases, the target group may be large and heterogeneous which may force you to break it down into smaller groups.

Once the target audience has been identified, the next step is the creation of content. This is fairly a challenging task for most people. You may start with a rough draft and improve it gradually over time before coming up with the final copy. The level of vocabulary that is used needs to be understood with ease. Keep your sentences simple, short and concise and free of detailed explanations.

Choose the format to use based on the specific circumstances. One of the commonest formats used involves titles and subtitles. Titles usually introduce the reader to the main topic while subtopics expound the main topics further. For example, if a condition such as diarrhea is being discussed, subtitles may include the causes, prevention, treatment and complications. Another popular format that may be chosen is the question and answer format.

Illustrations are a useful addition. Educational illustrations are in particular quite useful in explaining some concepts better. An example of an educational illustration is that of the digestive tract and associated systems that is included in a handout discussing diarrhea. Filler illustrations are mainly used to make the brochure more interesting and to interrupt the monotony of reading.

You may need to involve a great deal of creativity to get the patients interested in the handout. If you modify it in such a manner that it has many other uses then the readers are likely to retain it for longer and will even make references to it again in future. Some of the ways of doing this is to modify them into items such as calendars and bookmarks.

Advertisements can be made through handouts alongside the other information. You will likely benefit more if the advertisements are in line with the subject matter. If a brochure is discussing cancers, for instance, the advertisement may relate to interventions that can be made to manage the specific cancers discussed. Even as you do this, strive to keep the advertisements at less than 20% of the content.

The handouts that are used in patient education have remained an important tool of communication over the years. The brochures can be customized to meet patient and facility needs which makes them such a great option. Since the design and production process is quite challenging some people choose to outsource the entire exercise.

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