Advertising, Healthcare, Public Relations

Healthcare communications: How to kill jargon and demystify your message

Share This


Jake Miller

"Active voice is the new black."

This is an article about using healthcare words that are easy to understand. It is written at an eighth-grade level.

This article has no long sentences. It does not have big words. And this is how all consumer healthcare communications should read. Here’s why:

Most people in the U.S. read at or below an eighth-grade level. That means they can understand Steven King novels but not The New York Times. More than 30 million U.S. adults cannot read above a third-grade level, according to ProLiteracy.

Healthcare literacy rates are worse. Only 12 percent of U.S. adults have proficient health literacy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That is because healthcare terms are hard to understand for nearly everyone, despite reading level.

Adults with low health literacy rates are more likely to use costly emergency room services, suffer from heart failure and forego preventive services, according to ProLiteracy. Each has an impact on a health system’s financial bottom line.

In healthcare, the words are big and weird looking. Those words are great for doctors and nurses who have special education and training. They are not great words for communicating with patients and consumers. Still, we continue to see complex words show up in everything from prescription information to blog posts.

This article is not meant to help doctors better communicate with their patients. It is meant for marketers and public relations pros. It is meant to stress the importance of using clear language and to provide some healthcare communications tips and tricks you can use to improve the clarity of your content.