A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that despite good intentions many patient educational materials are too difficult for patients and their families to grasp. The average reading level of the online materials by groups ranging from the American Society of Anesthesiologists to the American Psychiatric Association, fell anywhere from ninth grade to the sophomore year of college. That’s far above the fourth-to-sixth grade level recommended by the American Medical Association and by a number of U.S. government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services.
If you wonder why consumers go to so many different websites to get health information try and read some of the health information online, especially on drug company product websites. Too often the language on product websites is too medical and doesn’t really talk to users like people. It can often lead to confusion and frustration and not many pharma companies have done a lot to help eliminate the confusion.
Here are some things that every pharma product website should have to make it easier for consumers to read and understand the content:
(1) Rollover complex terms – Complex medical terms should be highlighted so that when a user rolls over the term a box pops up with the definition and links for more information.
(2) Talk to me – Content should be expressly written for the web not repurposed from other consumer materials.
(3) You expect me to read all this ? If you have to scroll more than once to read content you’re going to loose your audience. There is a direct correlation between the length of content and users disconnecting from the content.
(4) Too copy heavy – Use images and callouts strategically placed throughout your post to help bring people into the content.
(5) Check you content reading level - Copy the content from your site and paste it into a Word document and then check the reading level. If it is above 6th grade than you potentially have a problem.
(6) Links throughout your site – Google is ranking sites with links higher in organic search and people want links to credible health information. Why not help them get the information they are looking for ?
Content should draw people into your website and keep them engaged and digital marketers need to focus as much on content as the overall design of their website.
Rich Meyer has been in digital healthcare marketing for over 12 years and has worked on some of top digital marketing sites for pharma and medical device companies. I have relocated to the East Coast and I am currently looking to join a patient centered healthcare marketer in the Boston area. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org