Tag: healthcarecomms

Talking the talk: Speaking patients’ language in medical writing

Writing for patients is my favourite part of medical writing. I find it rewarding and fun. It is where my passion for medical writing started. I love the challenge of translating complex scientific and medical information into easy digestible content. It is a fine balance of simplifying whilst not patronising the reader. I always remember attending a training course about writing ethics applications in my early days in clinical trials. One of the key messages I took away from that training was that the average reading age in the UK is between 9 and 12 years of age.

I have always tried to apply that in my patient writing. Although it can be a real challenge when you have to explain a complicated drug mechanism of action or a rare genetic disease.

The drive for a shared care culture in healthcare is stronger than ever, so enabling people to make informed health decisions has never been more important. The ability to effectively engage and empower patients in their own healthcare has the potential to improve their treatment adherence, health outcomes and their quality of life.1,2 This creates a demand for better information for patients and the general public in the medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. Plain language materials are essential tools to help patients translate and understand complex medical and health information.3

In England alone, just below half of working aged adults (aged 16-65 years) are unable to understand or make use of everyday health information.4 It is important to keep this in mind whilst developing content for the patient population and pitch it at the right level. Patient understanding can vary widely depending on their condition, severity and length of time since diagnosis. For example, a newly diagnosed cancer patient’s understanding of their health and medical information compared to someone with a life-long medical condition that requires frequent intervention is very different. Therefore, to gain insight on the level of understanding and specific terminology certain patient groups use, it can be helpful to access patient specific websites and forums.

There are many good practices around writing for patients, such as using simple words, cutting the jargon, using short sentences, increasing white space on the page, using graphics and using the active voice. However, knowing the rules and applying them takes a certain skill. Many health information producers feel they lack the skills to develop appropriate resources to meet the needs of people with low health literacy.5 It can be really easy to lose the key message, so always consider removing any information that may not be relevant to the patient.

Writing should be focused on what the patient really wants to know.

The majority of people access information about their health online and more than half of these people will be influenced by the information they find.6 Now more than ever, it is important that patients and the general public have access to unbiased, trustworthy information that is evidence-based. It is our job as medical writers to make sure that we produce health and medical information that is really what they need. So let’s make sure we talk the patients’ language.


  1. Vahdat, S. et al Iran Red Cres Med J. 2014; 16(1): e12454
  2. Chen, J et al Health Educ Behav 2016; 43(1): 25-34
  3. Warde, F. et al CMEJ 2018; 9(2): e52-e59
  4. Rowlands, G. et al Br J Gen Pract 2015: e379
  5. Health literacy survey 2013 https://pifonline.org.uk/resources/archive/health-literacy-survey-2013/ (accessed March 2022)
  6. Profiles of Health Information Seekers 2011. Available from: www.pewinternet.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/media/Files/Reports/2009/PIP_Health_2009.pdf (accessed March 2022)

Business as usual while working from home: Tips for embracing agile working

by Louise Sharp |

As coronavirus dominates the news, and governments make decisions about protecting our health and wellbeing, many companies are imposing travel bans and recommending a work from home policy.

Agile working models are becoming increasingly popular and, amidst this current health situation, I have been reflecting on the pros and cons of working from home and the journey that we have been on at @MakaraHealth, where we have been employing a largely remote-working set-up from the start.

It’s all about mindset

Having had many conversations over the years about agile working, my honest reflection is that it is quite simply down to mindset. If you want it to work, you can make it work. I feel just as connected to my talented team at Makara when I am working remotely, as when I am with them face-to-face. Here are my learnings from employing an agile working model:

1.Trust and empower people

Just because you can’t see your colleagues, co-workers or boss, does not mean you or they aren’t working! Presenteeism is hopefully becoming a thing of the past but, as working from home becomes more prevalent, we need to really think about our tone of voice when we talk about it. All too often ‘oh yes, they are working from home’ is delivered dismissively as if that person is less committed as a result of location. A culture of trust and empowerment is key to making the most of the benefits of working from home.

2. Stay connected and turn your video link on

You can be just as present while working remotely if you stay connected. Simply dialling into Zoom or WebEx meetings with your video link live so people can see you creates the next best thing to a face-to-face in-office meeting.

3. Make an effort

When working from home, you might not have that conversation in the corridor or at the coffee station but, with a little effort, structure and planning, you can have even more productive meetings. Set agendas, put shorter meetings into the diary (try 15 mins rather than 30), make the most of the amazing technology we all have access to. Agree how working from home will work best for your team and make an effort to stay in touch. For many, having the social interaction is a key part of their daily routine, so make it happen.

4. Take regular breaks

Without the distraction of an office environment, productivity can often be higher. However, taking regular breaks is just as important. It’s easy just to stay at your computer all day when you are working from home so try setting yourself reminders in your diary to take short breaks. If possible, get out at lunchtime, or work from different rooms in the house for a change of scenery. Finally, message or call co-workers to ensure you strike a balance – we’ve found that Slack helps us feel more connected as a team and it allows for the more informal catch ups we might otherwise miss.

5. Enjoy it!

Above all else, enjoy it. Working from home saves the commute and adds back precious time into your day.

#agileworking #healthcarecomms #workfromhome #businessasusual #agilethinking #coronavirus