Make Written Communication More Readable for Patients

Most experts agree that the average American reads at a 7th- or 8th-grade level. Yet, most doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers write at an 11th- or 12th-grade level. So chances are pretty high that you and your staff are writing over the heads of most of your patients. Older and less educated patients often report inability to understand the clinical language used in the messaging and written instructions they typically receive from their doctor’s office.

How do you know what grade level you are writing to? Actually, there’s a very simple way to find out, and it’s included free with today’s most popular writing software, Microsoft WORD. The instructions for finding it may vary slightly from Macs and PCs.

Make Written Communication More Readable for Patients

On a Mac, you simply pull down the Tools menu at the top of your screen and select Spelling and Grammar. Select Options at the bottom of the Spelling and Grammar window and you’ll get a larger window containing many spelling and grammar options alongside check boxes. Under Grammar, there are five check boxes. The last one says “Show readability statistics.” Check that box.

Make Written Communication More Readable for Patients

Once you have selected readability statistics, you can then highlight any section of text – a sentence, paragraph, page or an entire document and learn, according to the industry standard Flesch-Kincaid Readability Index, exactly what grade level you are writing to. The last step is to run your grammar checker. When the grammar checker is complete, you’ll see the “Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level” at the bottom of the readability dialogue that pops up.

Note that Macs do not show reading levels higher than grade 12.0 even though the content may be written for college- or postgraduate-level readers.

Make sure that your practice facilitates patient compliance by communicating with patients in a way that they will understand. Keep your written messaging short and simple (also a good idea for your verbal communications with patients).

In case you were wondering , this marketing tip was written at grade level 11.1.