Are communication & research materials truly 'patient friendly'?

Written by Karen Stevens & Neil Rees on Tuesday 4th June 2019

OPEN Health Patient & Brand Communications were invited to deliver a training session at the BHBIA (British Healthcare Business Intelligence Association) Annual Conference on the 13th May to encourage researchers to consider whether communication and research materials are truly ‘patient friendly’.

The concept of patient centricity is no longer novel, it is a given that Pharma must develop their offering with the patient at the heart of it.  However, the transition from boardroom to bathroom cabinet is taking time, with a notable stumbling block being the design and execution of patient centered programmes and materials, which are engaging for patients and their supporting network. 

Led by Dr Sumira Riaz (Lead Health Psychologist) and Karen Stevens (Research Director), this training session was attended by around 45 people, from both agency and client side.  An interactive session, it challenged participants to think about:

  • How they and their colleagues approach patient communication and research
  • Exploring examples of good & bad patient communication
  • Understanding the guiding principles for designing patient communications in the future
  • Developing materials that engage with their target audience, that are well understood and genuinely valuable to support disease management

The session explored key pillars of designing patient communication; introduced under the context of the importance of understanding health literacy… did you know the reading age of the UK population is just 9 years old!  How many science writers and medical approvers steeped in Pharmaceutical industry experience consider that when creating and reviewing materials?!  Sumira took the audience through the concept of health literacy and how this differs from general literacy, challenging the audience to focus on comprehension, inclusiveness and writing to how people read. 

Using various examples, the audience broke into groups to critique examples of materials, against the key pillars of patient material development:

  • Layout
  • Content
  • Accuracy
  • Design
  • Format

Working in groups, participants focused on critiquing materials, as well as a variety of publication types, to get people thinking about target audiences and how the content, language and tone reflects on a brand.  

In the feedback session the audience provided some fantastic views on what works and what doesn’t, identifying the new filters they applied to the critical review of information.  Feedback from audience members tells us the session was successful in proving them with confidence in developing patient focused assets and research materials, considering key criteria such as the audience, health literacy, vocabulary, sentence construct, active language and tone. 


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