Ophthalmology Business

NOV 2012

Ophthalmology Business is focused on business topics relevant to the entrepreneurial ophthalmologist. It offers editorial, opinion, and practical tips for physicians running an ophthalmic practice. It is a companion publication of EyeWorld.

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continued from page 11 Do your materials make the grade (level)? M edical writers routinely employ a number of formulae to calculate readability. See how your current materials score on six of the most common measures of readability by going to EditCentral.com and entering a representative sample of text into the site's interactive utility. The Flesch-Kincaid grade level score of a representative sample of this article, for example, is 12.9, with a "reading ease" score of 37.9, which means that it is only slightly easier to read than the Harvard Law Review. Its Gunning Fog Index score (the number of years of formal education required to understand the material the first time it is read) is 18.5; material that requires close to universal understanding generally requires a Fog score lower than 8. fy them to deal with the problem. The best solution does not require "talking down" to non-impaired patients or creating multiple versions of the same information. It involves creating a single set of materials that can be understood by all of your patients. The literacy issue aside, they are often challenged to make a decision (perhaps a life-changing one) and heed your instructions in an emotionally charged situation that affects their ability to listen, read, learn, and remember. Under less-than-ideal circumstances, even those with adequate literacy skills may have difficulty comprehending and retaining critical information; even under the best of situations, the typical patient has a shorter memory than you would think. Studies have shown that everyone—even the occasional rocket scientist who comes to you for help—appreciates materials that are easy to read and comprehend. Readability doesn't happen by accident. Professional medical writers consider a number of factors when planning and producing written education materials appropriate for a wide range of patients: • Target audience Keep in mind the age, gender, and cultural demographics of the practice. • Goals and objectives The number of key concepts and messages—what patients really need to know—should be limited and focused. • Timing Step back and identify critical points in staff/patient interaction and decide what the patient needs to know at each of those points. • Presentation The most important information should be the easiest to spot. Add emphasis by circling, boxing, bolding, or underlining text, or use arrows to point to information of particular importance. • Design As often as possible, use bullets instead of paragraphs. Don't give in to the temptation to fill every square inch with information or images—the more white space, the better. ALL CAPS, script, and italics are not easy to read. Graphics should be relevant, basic, familiar, and easily recognizable. • Print stock Glossy paper stock may make you happy with the look of the finished piece, but your cataract 12 Ophthalmology Business eZine • November 2012 patients may have trouble dealing with the glare it gives off in the bright light they need for reading. Specify a matte or less reflective satin finish, and if you want to upgrade the look and feel of the piece, use 80# or 100# stock. • Language and vocabulary Aim for a reading comprehension level of grade 6 or lower. Use a conversational style in active voice, and do your best to limit sentence length to 15 words or less. Avoid jargon and technical words, abbreviations, unfamiliar acronyms, statistics, and contrac- tions. Whenever possible, avoid words of more than two syllables. "Fixing" your materials involves more than using words with fewer syllables or shortening sentences. Not all multisyllabic words are difficult to understand, and a longer-than-average sentence does not necessarily affect readability. If word and sentence length are the only changes you make, the result may actually be more difficult to read and understand. Consider it an investment You cannot cure our society's illiteracy woes, but you are in a position to improve your patients' health literacy. When you, the subject matter expert, collaborate with an experienced medical writer to produce materials that all of your patients can understand, all of your patients win. The only cost-effective patient education materials are those that you can count on to get the job done every time. OB Mr. Rabourn is founder and managing princi- pal, Medical Consulting Group, Springfield, Mo. He can be contacted at bill@medcgroup.com.

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