Going beyond the words of healthcare communication.
As a result of the pandemic, the general consumer is becoming more engaged with health and science. While this is a very positive development, it means healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical brands, and communicators must work harder to ensure health information is accessible for all.
The stakes in healthcare communication are incredibly high because health literacy is directly correlated to better outcomes. What’s more, the health literacy problem impacts 9 out of 10 adults. Research shows that people with low health literacy have more emergency room visits and hospital stays, are less likely to follow their provider’s recommendations, and have higher mortality rates. We also know that these issues most adversely impact underserved communities.
Fortunately, this is an area we as healthcare communicators can impact. We can adjust the way we convey complex information so that it is understood by the many, not the few. But to make the biggest difference, we must understand who the audience is and how they are feeling when they are accessing healthcare information. Simply, we must practice empathy.
Communication is about heart, humanity and truly understanding people. We cannot ignore that we’re often communicating to people facing serious, chronic or life-threatening conditions. They may feel like their worlds have been turned upside down; they are often at their most vulnerable.
When we put ourselves in the shoes of those we are trying to reach, taking into account the emotional impact of disease and the myriad accompanying concerns, we do a better job of reaching people so that they connect with, understand, and use the information they need.
Try implementing these eight tips for healthcare communicators when you’re creating spoken or written materials:
Thankfully, a lot of work has and is being done to draw attention to the issue of limited health literacy. We are seeing more and more toolkits and resources being developed by public and private organizations who want to be part of the health literacy solution.
Here are three key resources to bookmark:
Healthcare communications is about far more than just words. Before the words, we need to understand who we are speaking to, what they’re going through at that moment, and how we can best help them access, understand, and use the information they need to improve or manage their health. So much of the healthcare journey is intimidating. We have the ability to change that.
Abigail Obre, Vice President, Goodfuse Communications