Patient educational material too complex for average consumers

definition-academic-research-writing-800X800A study, published 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 lose 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 your 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.



5 thoughts on “Patient educational material too complex for average consumers

  1. Congratulations Mr. Meyer, your articles are just perfect! They are a great source of information for pharma marketers and journalists.

  2. You are so right- Lets really speak to the consumer so they can be engaged.

  3. Would you mind providing a link to the original article please? Sounds like it could be an interesting read.

  4. You ought to take part in a contest for one of the finest blogs online.
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  5. When someone writes an post he/she retains the image
    of a user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.

    Therefore that’s why this piece of writing is outstdanding.

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