Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Writing for your audience

Yesterdays Age (Melbourne) has an article by the Health Editor, Julia Medew on how Dr Sonia Fullerton has changed the way she writes information for her patients.

Dr Fullerton has begun to write her Health Letter to the patient, and "CC' to the other members of the Health team. The patient is the centre of the treatment, so the Health letter is written to him. The patient has an opportunity to have a greater understanding of the goals and direction for treatment.  The persons Health team will still understand the information.

In writing her Health letter in this way, Dr Fullerton acknowledges she was concerned how other members of the medical profession would respond to this means of communicating, i.e. in Plain Language (removing Health jargon, and talking directly to the patient, in a way the patient could understand).  

This concern is often raised by people when asked to consider or use Plain Language or Easy English. 

The purpose of any written communication should be so the intended audience has an understanding of the material. Those of us with good literacy, can feel we are not representing our profession or skills properly if we do not use jargon based, and complex language in our written communication.  We are all guilty of it. However, keeping in mind, the person at the centre of the communication is the consumer or patient, will provide for greater awareness for us all, when we write.

This is critical for all information, not just a Health letter or report.
Ask a patient what treatment they prefer. Giving them a brochure with complex data and Health information will not assist in their decision making.  Every person needs to be able to comprehend the information in a way that is meaningful for them.  Most people have not had years and years of training, and then years of experience of a particular medical condition. Therefore, all medical jargon and complex data needs to be removed. Using everyday language is critical. This is not denigrating the patient.  Think about the bonuses.
The patient has a better understanding of the
·         length or duration of treatment;
·         when to take self administered medication;
·         when appointments are;
·         potential side effects, and when to call you or alert you to changes;
·         potential outcomes, both positive and negative;
·         reduced stress as they are aware of all of the above.
It can be hard to reduce the complex web of information and knowledge you have, into useful consumer information. However the benefits, once you can do this, are amazing. 

Talk to Cathy about how to develop your current information into  manageable and understandable information for your audience.

Cathy Basterfield
Speech Pathologist
Access Easy English
0466 579 855 

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