How to Simplify Technical Jargon for Healthcare Patient Education Materials and Infographics

By Jennifer Abayowa, Mar 17, 2021

Patient education materials healthcare jargon blog header

The health of patients depends on a mutual partnership between patient and provider. As a healthcare worker, your role is to equip your patients to become active participants and take ownership of their health.

That’s where patient education materials come in—they help empower your patients to become better informed about their medical conditions, procedures and treatments.

And in this new era of virtual medical care, having the ingenuity to create easy-to-digest content is even more priceless.

But, how can busy healthcare practitioners create simple, jargon-free content to educate and empower patients? Easy—by using patient education templates.

In this post, we’ll show you how to simplify technical jargon for patient education and how to use infographics to create accessible, actionable materials. You can use Venngage’s online Infographic Maker and in minutes you will have healthcare patient education infographics that are easy to digest.


 

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How can I make effective patient education materials?

The best healthcare patient education materials and infographics engage patients and help them make informed decisions.

But the materials you create must be simple enough to grasp. Take for instance, this one by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Patient education materials CDC covid-19 infographic

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One key strategy to help you speak the language of your patients is to first identify who they are.

Defining your target audience helps you create information that is relevant to them and equips you to address a critical need or solve a problem.

You can’t communicate efficiently to your target audience if you don’t speak their language.

Speaking technical jargon to a lay audience will put you at risk of losing them in the conversation. Take this coronavirus infographic, for example; it uses plain language with clear directions.

Patient education materials coronavirus process infographic template


 

Why simplifying technical jargon is important for patient education

One of the standard responsibilities of healthcare workers is to share information with the public.

But what if you are consistently putting information out there and, yet, your target audience isn’t responding?

Few companies succeed at reaching their target audience.

Patient education materials target audience chart

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The target audience for healthcare patient education materials and infographics are typically patients who may be experts in their fields but do not have a medical or health-related degree.

To get them to respond, you need to break down medical jargon into layman speak. For example, this infographic gives parents clear, direct advice on how to help children experiencing pandemic-related stress.

Related: 8 Mental Health Infographics to Raise Awareness [Templates and Examples]

Patient education materials stress children infographic


 

The benefits of simplifying technical jargon for patients

1. Healthcare or medical terminology is too complex for non-experts

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything, citing a 1993 research by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Römer.

Since then, many professionals have cited a minimum of 10,000 hours as a rule or principle to follow when trying to become an expert. But other scientists argue that this rule is variable depending on the type of activity.

For example, Macnamara, Hambrick, and Oswald claim that “deliberate practice” explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions.

Patient education materials prostate patients pie chart

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Brooke Macnamara, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, said, “The [10,000 hours] idea has become really entrenched in our culture, but it’s an oversimplification.”

However, it is still evident that one has to put in a lot of work to become an expert in anything.

Even if you’re not calculating the hours, you would need to spend months to years to emerge as a subject matter expert.

As medicine is not the expertise of most of your patients, they may need to look up definitions in a dictionary whenever they come across medical terms.

As a rule of thumb, you should break down complex healthcare or medical terminology so that people who are experts in other fields can follow along.

2. Simplified language in healthcare infographics leads to positive health outcomes

The goal of healthcare is to improve the overall health outcomes of your patients. Your content should equip them to take the right action.

An estimated 6 in 10 American adults have a chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease, according to the CDC.

Infographics can help people dealing with these conditions improve their lifestyle. Just be sure to use simplified language, as seen in the infographic below.Patient education materials health condition neurology templates


 

3. Patients are more compliant when they understand instructions

In the old model of our health care systems, physicians told patients what to do. However, health care in the US is transitioning to patient-centric care where the patient is more involved in the decision-making than ever before.

The World Health Organization reports that 10% to 25% of admissions in hospitals and nursing homes are due to patient noncompliance. Also, 50% of prescriptions are not taken correctly, and up to 40% of patients do not follow up with their treatment regimens.

To take control of their health, people need to be active and informed participants in their treatment. But if they don’t understand the terminology, it could lead to them becoming non-compliant.

 

Why you should use infographics in healthcare materials

About 65 percent of people are visual learners (people who need to see what they’re learning), according to the Social Science Research Network.

Verbal learners (people who learn by hearing) only account for 30 percent of the population, and experiential learners (people who learn by doing and touching) account for the remaining 5 percent.

When people are matched with their learning styles, they absorb information better. And most people are visual learners.

Visual cues also keep individuals motivated about the topic they are learning. Infographics are fantastic when it comes to addressing the needs of visual learners.

Related: 7 Healthcare Infographic Templates to Use in Healthcare Settings

 

7 tips for simplifying healthcare patient education materials

The purpose of healthcare infographics is to simplify complex medical information. In other words, healthcare infographics make your message clearer.

Here are seven tips that will help you simplify technical jargon so that your patients can actually act on the information you are trying to communicate.

1. Use common, everyday language

In communicating information to people who are not medical experts, you should avoid complex terminology. Instead, explain what that technical term means in simple words.

For example, instead of “inflammation,” write “swelling.” Or instead of “exacerbate,” use “worsen.”

This infographic below uses everyday language that makes it easy to grasp quickly.

Patient education materials stress infographic


 

2. Use numbered lists to organize information

When an infographic has a good structure, it flows logically. Think about how your topic will drift through your reader’s mind.

First, outline and draft your content. Then ask yourself, “How does one point connect to the next?”

Next, use numbers to illustrate the order of steps, as seen in this infographic example below.

Patient education materials health and wellness infographic


 

3. Structure your content to flow logically

Content structure is important for all types of content, including healthcare patient education materials. Content that has good structure will guide your readers from one idea to another in a logical manner.

Infographics are primarily designed to give your readers a logical flow of ideas and data in a visual format. You can tell if the structure of your infographic works when your patients can quickly find the information they are looking for.

This infographic example is well-structured and helps the reader move easily from one point to the next.

Patient education materials brain infographic


 

4. Use images and icons to represent complex terminology

Since visual learners are drawn first to images, you should use images and icons to represent complex technical jargon. One advantage of images is that readers will instantly recognize the topic.

Grab your reader’s attention by using one image or icon per subtitle, as seen in the example below:

Patient education materials diabetes prevention infographic


 

5. Help readers visualize each health outcome

Images can help readers visualize each health outcome.

In the infographic below, readers can visualize themselves doing various activities while still taking precautions to prevent COVID-19.

Patient education materials safe family activities pandemic infographic


 

6. Highlight medical statistics

Tell the story behind your data by using statistical infographics.

Statistics used in healthcare infographics are powerful because they immediately give people the big picture.

Statistical infographics are useful for presenting numbers, charts, and data.

You don’t have to include every data point. Choose the most important data that informs your patients the most, as seen in this infographic below.

Patient education materials employee wellness infographic


 

7. Use highly informative headers and less text in summaries

One way to simplify medical jargon is to emphasize your headers.

If your headers can explain what you are trying to say, then you’ve done most of the work!

The attention span for the average person is short. Your titles and subtitles should contain the most important information you need to convey.

Related: How to Summarize Information and Present It Visually

The rest of your infographic, including the summaries under each subtitle, should be less text-heavy, as seen in the example below.

Patient education materials components of fitness mind map template


 

The goal of simplifying technical jargon for healthcare patient education materials and infographics is to improve the overall health outcomes of your patients. Being able to break down highly complex information is an acquired skill.

Fortunately, Venngage offers 1,000+ easy-to-edit templates with 9 infographic types for you to choose from. You can use our drag-and-drop online Infographic Editor and in minutes you will have healthcare patient education infographics that are easy to digest.


 

 

About Jennifer Abayowa

Jennifer E. Abayowa is a Medical Writer and Editor, and the Founder of Health Prime Now Medical Writing. She creates evidence-based medical content for organizations. Her freelance content portfolio covers top Pharma and Fortune 500 companies, including Johnson & Johnson, P&G, and Medline. Her work has also been published on sites such as Healthline.com. You can find her on LinkedIn.