The Coffey Blog

How to make a complex medical topic easy to understand

Posted on: Monday, November 21, 2016

Karen Craddock, Senior Editor

As writers and editors of healthcare content, we frequently face this challenge: How do we craft an engaging story about a complicated medical topic—particularly when the reader we want to reach is a healthcare consumer?

It's easy to lose those readers if you don’t make medical stories interesting and easy to understand.

3 tips for compelling healthcare content

Think about these three tips whenever you write or edit a story about a medical procedure or condition.

1. Compose a captivating headline. A great headline is the gateway to your content. It should help draw people in and make them want to take the time to read your story. But it's not always easy to create a great headline when you're tackling topics like nuclear medicine, heart scans or Charcot foot. In cases like that, it helps to remember that headlines need to pique a reader's curiosity or spell out a benefit.

Example: Charcot foot: Why you need to know about this if you have diabetes.

More headline tips from The Coffey Blog:

2. Keep the language simple. Because you're not writing a story for doctors, replace words or phrases that sound like medical jargon with language that a layperson can easily understand.

For instance, don't say oral medications—call them medications you take by mouth. Or don't say myocardial infarction—call it a heart attack. This advice holds true even if a doctor you interview uses these terms.

If a story needs to contain a medical term that most people might not know, then include a definition. An article about chest pain, for example, might mention atherosclerosis. Use the term—but explain it.

More plain language tips from The Coffey Blog:

Pro tip: To get an idea of how complex your writing is, check the reading level. (You can do this in in Word.) Generally, you don't want the score to be higher than a 7th- or 8th-grade level.

3. Break it down. Few people want to read a page awash in a sea of type—especially when the subject matter is one that people may immediately think is hard to comprehend.

There are myriad options for packaging information so it's easier to grasp. Try a Q&A format. Opt for a chart or an infographic. Include pullouts or interesting nuggets of information—like fast facts—to make understanding the topic less daunting.

More packaging tips from The Coffey Blog:

Need help with your healthcare content?

Coffey writers and editors have decades of experience writing about simple—and complex—medical topics. We know how to make even the most challenging stories sing. To learn more about how we can do that with your healthcare marketing content, call 888.805.9101 or email us.