I’m in the middle of lots of healthcare work right now. One project has been to create a patient support programme for diabetes patients for a healthcare agency in London. The other is working directly with a pharmaceutical client to revamp a large patient website. My twitchiness about client confidentiality prevents me from naming names at this stage however.
I fancy myself an authority on copy tone – especially when it comes to writing to people who have medical conditions. Not only have I had years of experience in this field, but I am a terrrible hypochondriac. This unhealthy ability to empathise with people who are in dire health straits is something that’s paid off for me since working for an asbestosis charity many years ago. Talking to people dying of mesothelioma every day makes it hard to stay objective and removed.
Here are two golden rules for writing to patients.
- Don’t talk to people as if they were walking medical conditions. It sounds obvious, but there are frequent offences against this. You have to talk to the whole person, who just happens to have condition X. People are much more interested in their own lives than they are – say – in the finer points of cholesterol production in their liver.
- Show people how they can succeed. The advice you give them must be practical. If you can point to some quick wins, or things that they are already doing well, living more healthily will not be seen as an impossible aspiration, but rather something they are already beginning to do.