Plain Language in Presentations Allows for Better Communication!
- February 1, 2021
- Posted by:
- Category: Educated Dietitian
Health professionals have the challenging task of translating the complicated terminology they learned in school into everyday language that anyone can understand. Using plain language when conversing with clients or patients allows for better communication and navigation. Plain language is a form of communication, verbally or written, which is in clear, simple terms can be easily understood (Brach, 2016). However, plain language is not just about using plain words. It is also about providing context and about the style of writing you use!
No matter how educated a person is, or how familiar they are with healthcare, factors like fatigue, stress and fear can interfere with comprehending even the most basic health information. In fact, roughly 60% of Canadian adults have low health literacy – which simply means they struggle to comprehend and act upon basic health information due to its complexity (Health Quality Ontario, n.d.).
Provided by the courtesy of Health Quality Ontario, the following plain language best practice checklist will guide you in communicating with your patients efficiently:
✔ Focus Your Communication
▪ Know your audience and purpose before you begin. Always start off with the most important messages that you need to convey to the patient or caregiver.
✔ Be Concise
▪ Too much information may overwhelm or intimidate the patient/caregiver. Try to limit messages to four to six key messages to make communication understandable and concise. This will allow the patient to focus on details that are most important.
✔ Speak/Write at a Grade 8 Level
▪ Many individuals may not have the expertise to clearly understand complex health information. Sharing information with the mindset of a lower grade level allows you to communicate the best.
✔ Use Bullet Points
▪ This makes documents much easier to read, as well highlight key points and instructions that need to be followed. Bullet points break up text and add white space, which is a best practice in plain language communication.
✔ Use Images
▪ Using health infographics and other images has been a proven way to help patients/caregivers visualize and understand key information.
✔ Avoid Using Jargon
▪ Choose words and numbers your audience knows. Words with fewer syllables are easier for people to understand.
✔ Avoid Using Acronyms
▪ Avoid health system acronyms. If such acronyms must be used, explain the meaning and context of these acronyms to the patient/caregiver.
Written by: Prabhnoor Grover, Chief Editor, IEDNC
Reviewed by: Manmeet Behl, RD, NM,CDE, President, IEDNC
Updated: December 20, 2020
Health Quality Ontario. (n.d.). Communication Clearly with Patients and Caregiver Advisors: A Plain Language Checklist for Health Care Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.hqontario.ca/Portals/0/Documents/pe/quick-tools-checklist-communicating-clearly-pc.pdf
Brach, C. (2016). Getting doctors to use plain language and other ways to improve patient understanding. Retrieved from https://centerforplainlanguage.org/improving-patient-understanding/
Pacific University Oregon. (2020). Health Literacy for Interprofessional Education (IPE) eToolkit: Patient Communication: Plain Language & Clear Communication. Retrieved December 30, 2020, from https://pacificu.libguides.com/HLeT/PlainLanguage