The Write Rx: Elevating Healthcare Communication with Patient-Centric Content
BY Lindsay Cottman
| Jan 17, 2024
If you work in healthcare, you’re likely familiar with the concept of patient-centricity and the bevy of benefits that come with it: better clinical outcomes, increased patient retention rates, improved health literacy, greater engagement across patient populations and more. 

At its core, patient-centricity—and more specifically, patient-centric content—is about weaving a narrative that not only checks all the clinical boxes, but resonates with people on a personal level. It’s about recognizing that every diagnosis, and every treatment plan, is a unique chapter in a patient’s story. It might sound squishy, but science supports the efficacy of emotional storytelling. By tapping into this narrative, healthcare marketers and medical writers can create content that informs and genuinely strikes a chord with the human experience.

When it comes to creating this content, a large part of the challenge lies in translating complex medical terms and concepts into easily digestible, engaging messaging. Before you file under “easier said than done,” here are a few basic principles to help you get into a patient-centric mindset—and adopt a content creation strategy to match.

Use plain, clear language

Whether you’re creating a campaign to promote a specific service line or to recruit clinical trial participants, it’s important to embrace the power of simplicity whenever possible. Replace medical jargon with words that are familiar to everyday audiences. For example, instead of “cardiovascular,” say “heart health.” 

By employing the principles of the federal plain language guidelines, you open the door to a broader audience eager to understand their health better. For a final gut check, reference this checklist from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and see how your content measures up. Given what we know about reader comprehension and health literacy, using plain language is a simple way to ensure your content is more likely to be read and understood. 

Prioritize inclusive language

Employing inclusive language is essential in all professional communications, especially healthcare content. This involves not only choosing words that celebrate diversity but also using the correct pronouns, including links at the bottom of your webpage that allow visitors to access information in multiple languages, translating signage throughout your healthcare facility, using culturally appropriate verbiage and more

For instance, instead of saying “normal,” opt for “typical” to avoid unintentionally marginalizing experiences. Recognizing and respecting diverse identities fosters a welcoming healthcare environment. This is particularly crucial as health disparities persist among marginalized groups—when inclusive language isn’t used, many people don’t feel safe or comfortable seeking care.

Enhance content with images and graphics

Words matter, but impactful visuals transcend language barriers. A visually appealing infographic on managing medication can convey far more than a page of text. By making content visually engaging, you cater to a wider audience with varying learning preferences. Research indicates that the use of visuals in educational materials improves understanding by up to 400%, making it a powerful tool in patient education.

Research your audience

First, identify the predominant age groups, cultural backgrounds and geographic locations within your audience. For example, tailoring your content to seniors may involve focusing on age-related health concerns and adeptly navigating healthcare challenges during retirement. But don’t rely on demographic data alone—explore channels including online forums, social media and patient testimonials to better understand the terminology and tone your audience uses. This insight becomes the foundation for content that not only informs but also resonates with their unique experiences. 

Review material through the right lens

Before you hit publish, seek feedback from those who matter most—your patients. Conducting patient focus groups or interviews ensures your content aligns with their expectations. It’s the ultimate litmus test for patient-centricity. What’s more, involving patients in the review process results in content that is more patient-centered, culturally sensitive and easier to understand.

In a world where information is abundant but connection is rare, patient-centric content validates the power of storytelling in healthcare marketing. When every piece of content is viewed as a conversation, every statistic is a story and every patient is not just informed but truly heard, everyone wins.