Keep health content simple, clear and relevant

From Digital Commerce 360 with Laura Emiola

Published: June 16, 2019

Original Post 

Casual language may seem like an easy way to make content more understandable, but there is such a thing as being too casual.

Most communications sent to members by health plans are intended to prompt some sort of action – get your flu shot, schedule a breast cancer screening, complete an eye exam, and so on. But if that message is lost in complicated language or an overly long document, members might not take the recommended action, which could put their health at risk.

A recent study by VisibleThread found that nearly 87% of Medicare communications aren’t understood by Medicare members. Further, an analysis of 30 U.S. insurers found that only six used an acceptable level of word density in their communications.

You don’t have to be a healthcare expert to know that people are more likely to respond to communications that are easy to understand. So how can plans make sure their message doesn’t read like a medical textbook? Here are six tips:

Explain complex medical words and phrases in plain language

This can be a challenge considering some words such as “ophthalmologist” or “mammogram” are often necessary to include. But the goal isn’t to completely eliminate these terms, it’s to educate people about what they mean and why they matter.

For example, if a health plan offers a member an incentive for an eye screening, a typical message might read, “Schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist and attest to the visit when completed to receive your reward.” But a much simpler and easy-to-understand option would be “It’s time to schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist (a special doctor for your eyes). Once you’ve completed this activity, let us know. Then we’ll send you the gift card of your choice.”