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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the prescribed treatment regimen than their more literate peers," wrote Kelly W. Muir, M.D., Duke Eye Center, Duke University, Durham, N.C., and Paul P. Lee, M.D., in a 2010 Survey of Ophthalmology journal article. Although comprehension of your written instructions and other materials is key for any eye disease you treat, it is particularly crucial for chronic problems such as glaucoma. Dr. Muir and co-investigators report- ed in an Archives of Ophthalmology study that glaucoma medication adherence in children decreased when the parents had decreased health literacy. "Poor health literacy skills can affect the whole family in terms of managing chronic disease," Dr. Muir said. Considering that the National Assessment of Adult Literacy report- ed in 2003 that more than one third of adults in the U.S. have only basic or below basic health literacy skills, there's a good chance that a chunk of your patients are not compre- hending your written materials— particularly if you have not created them to be easily understood. Ophthalmologists have another important reason to make their writ- ten materials easy to understand, said Helen Osborne, M.Ed., OTR/L, founder and president, Health Literacy Consulting, Natick, Mass. "The design of those materials is extra important for patients who have issues with vision," she said. Read on for 8 tips to make your written materials clearer and more comprehensible. 1. Get rid of jargon. "Therefore, patients should be monitored for extraocular CMV infections and retinitis in the opposite eye, if only one infected eye is being treated." Written material to make patient friendly • Websites • Prescription instructions • Consent forms • Patient education brochures • Emails or letters • Pre- or post-op surgery instructions • Patient intake forms Drs. Muir and Lee cited the previous sentence from a patient information sheet as an example of something too complex for patients. Although physicians would naturally understand it, it no doubt loses patients. When you write patient- geared information, aim to eliminate acronyms, medical and insurance jargon, and words of three syllables or more, said Aracely Rosales, chief content expert and multilingual director, Health Literacy Innovations, Rockville, Md. In fact, her company has a software program called the Health Literacy Advisor that helps its users identify terms that will likely be lost on the general public. "It has a search-and-replace feature and gives a plain language replacement and description," she said. It can be difficult to get rid of complex terms that you're accus- tomed to using, Ms. Rosales said. "One problem providers have is they are so used to using the medical ter- minology, they don't know how to say it simply," she said. 2. Keep sentences short. By eliminating jargon, you can keep your sentences shorter, which also helps with readability, added Ms. Rosales. You can also keep sentences short with the use of bullet points and lists. 3. Make your information visually interesting. "When we started in health literacy, we did a survey about the kinds of health information patients needed. We found that a lot of information was being thrown in the trash," Ms. Rosales said. "It looked overwhelming." To counter that, any kind of written information you create should have a good deal of white space. Use illustrations and simple graphics to support your points, she suggested. 4. Consider your patients' visual (and other) disabili- ties. "I feel strongly that there's a lot of attention in health literacy on the printed word. But not enough on why people struggle to understand including disabilities such as vision, hearing, and cognition," said Ms. Osborne. Your written materials can better serve patients with disabilities by using a simple font and avoiding italics, using at least a 12-point type (preferably 14-point type for those with limited vision), using margins that are at least an inch wide, and having a high-color contrast, she explained. Having material that is visually easy to follow will also help as more patients access information by their mobile phones or smartphones instead of on paper or via a computer screen, Ms. Osborne said. 5. Designate someone in your office to learn the art of plain language writing, Ms. Osborne suggested. This staff member can learn the ins and outs of clear, simple writing— November 2012 • Ophthalmology Business eZine continued on page 20 19

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