Want to add another health writing style to your portfolio? Patient education materials are versatile, straightforward, useful and helpful.
What are patient education materials?
Patient education materials are handouts, leaflets and websites with information about health topics, medications and treatments.
But patient education materials also cover answers to common patient questions about those topics, medications and treatments.
For example, patient information can cover:
- What to expect during labour
- Managing pain in labour
- What is a period
- What is a painful period, and
- How to relieve painful periods.
And, when you’re writing patient education materials, it’s important to incorporate the core rules of plain English writing. These materials must be clear and easy to read for people with low health literacy skills.
In addition to explaining health topics, patient information can offer answers to common health concerns and strategies for managing health.
And it’s the question and answer format you need to keep in mind because patient information is about answering common reader questions, not just providing information.
The scope of topics you can write about – as well as who you can write for – is huge and increasing all the time.
I recently worked for a global healthcare company writing patient information about specific questions for patients who are taking their medications.
For example, the patient information included questions like: “Can I take this medication if I have COVID-19?”
Think of any question a reader may have about their health, and you can turn it into a patient handout.
And for someone who loves writing patient information, that is an exciting prospect!
But writing effective patient education material isn’t about creating material that reads well.
Many considerations go into writing a patient handout that is helpful and useful for your readers.
Considerations about language, style, word choice, engagement, subheadings, structure, medical editing – and more.
While patient education material seems relatively straightforward when you read it, there’s a lot of planning and strategy for content creation.
Understanding the purpose: To explain
Patient education is exactly what it sounds like: Materials that educate patients – the people with the condition or disease or symptom, their families, carers and friends – about a health topic.
Patient education material explains health topics and answers common questions.
It’s informational content.
That doesn’t mean it can’t be creative or fun – but ultimately, you are explaining rather than telling a story or reporting on new research.
And the good news about working with this type of explainer material is that you can follow a logical formula when you’re writing it.
Forms of patient education materials
Patient educational material comes in many forms.
It could be a printed handout or brochure, a web page, an app, a social media post, or a video.
We’re not just talking about words on a page – there’s a heavy visual component to patient education, too.
And as you are aware, patient education is everywhere.
It’s online – health websites, health service websites, blogs and Google search results.
It’s inside health services – when you visit the doctor or pharmacist and receive a handout.
Patient education is both passive and active. That means a patient might request the material, or their doctor may give it to them.
Importantly, there are differences between patient education health content and consumer marketing health content.
Education is about educating patients – whereas marketing is directly or indirectly promoting a product or service, including drug promotion, health service marketing, or encouraging a call-to-action, or most-wanted response.
So, this style of medical writing in plain English is specifically educating readers about health topics, diseases and symptoms – without necessarily marketing a solution or service for that treatment or driving action.
Now, as a writer, you might be hired to write patient education for a company that wishes to use that material indirectly for marketing – like a hospital or a health business.
You might write the patient handout and then include the marketing messages later.
Health Writing Template Package
Our Health Writing Template Package includes templates for health articles, pitches, patient handouts, health blogs, medical news articles and medical writer CVs. Use these templates as a starting point to write your health content and simplify your writing process!
Who produces patient education materials?
Speaking of being hired to write handouts: Who produces patient education materials?
As in, which companies and businesses publish this material?
The answer is hospitals, health services, government health and commercial websites and business.
In fact, I want you to do something for me now.
Google the question: “What is depression?” and see what comes up.
For me, it’s a patient educational page from Healthline, which is a health information website.
This page explains the condition in detail.
Try it again – this time, I want you to Google “symptoms of coronary artery disease?” and see what comes up.
For me, it’s the coronary artery disease health topic from the CDC.
But I also get the Google preview results of the symptoms.
The reason why I’m getting you to do these searches is to replicate the patient journey.
Most people who find your health content online are Googling specific questions as opposed to keywords.
They’re not just Googling: “Coronary artery disease.” They’re Googling: “What are the symptoms of coronary artery disease?”
Your readers just want straightforward answers.
So you will see that most patient educational materials are straightforward information pages with clear subheadings answering the questions readers type into their Google search bars.
Want to learn how to write patient education materials?
Check out my How to Write Patient Education Materials course! This three-week course will teach you everything you need to know about writing effective patient education materials that make a difference. After you complete the course, you will have:
- A certificate to enhance your credibility when applying for freelance and employed roles
- Writing skills to help you write useful, engaging and readable patient handouts
- Confidence to write health content that answers the questions patients are asking
- Knowledge and templates to help you write high-quality health content in future.
View the complete course curriculum here.