Medical & Heath Services
There were 2.4 million health service businesses in Australia in the year 2021 as reported by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. Since 2005, there has been an annual increase of growth averaging approximately 5% per year. More health services are needed in Australia with the increase of chronic conditions, ageing population, environmental changes, genetic changes and adverse reactions. The partnership between Australian health service specialists and consumers is person-centered care in their daily workflow.
In Australia, person-centred care has increased since the publication by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2008 identified 59% of Australian adults having had low health literacy. Low health literacy correlates with certain hospital admissions, readmissions, non-adherence of medications, adverse events, lack of preventative behaviours, higher health risk factors, poor management of chronic diseases, rise in healthcare costs and increased mortality. Information can improve gaps in patient knowledge about costs of treatment, options in private or public health systems, medical roles, explanations of results, understanding data, clinical trials, reporting adverse effects, wellness in health, relapse and advanced life care. Specific groups of socioeconomically vulnerable people with low health literacy are amongst indigenous people, immigrants, those with disabilities and refugees. People need better health education programs and intervention tools to access, understand and use health information. 1 2
Understanding health information is important for each stage of the patient journey with opportunities for lifelong learning.
Making information clear to understand
Health content writing can improve your information and motivate consumers with low health literacy using different types of words they understand.
The aim is to the satisfy the consumer, family and caregivers by using a reading level of AAA (year 7). This level gives all Australians of a different age, education level, disability, economic status and experience with the internet the best opportunity to read the text.
Easier to read and skim content
Design information to be simple, intuitive and engaging for people with low health literacy. Increase the focus of the consumer using clear messages with a friendly approach and certain types of words the consumer would know in plain English. Their interest is in things they need to know, the opportunity there is to learn more, easy actions, how changing behaviours will help and where to get support in the community.
Simplify your descriptions about conditions, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. Use basic explanations on the body, benefits and action steps to encourage clients to put positive guidance into action. Prioritise the most important information in ordering, limit in number of messages per document, information group each idea, shorten sentences and lists. Avoid unnecessary abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. Most people find it easier to concentrate with straightforward information, image flowcharts and information formatted with content navigation apps such as interactive slideshow boxes with arrows.
Formatting for narrow field of vision
Present information in a high quality format for people with lower health literacy to be able to feel confidence reading content. Readers with low health literacy tend to have a more narrow field of vision and certain strategies can help them feel less overwhelmed. Inspire health goals with actionable steps in learning and displaying content in a clear contained format. 3
Strategically organise information for easy learning:
Design content on a shorter page, spacious brighter backgrounds, bold contrast, consistency in format, repetition with patterns, centred information, limit width of text to 80 characters, use space and a half line spacing and font at least 12-point type (9pt/12px).
Simplify with a clear overarching message, order information, limit main messages to four per page, shorter sentences, bullet points, stand alone sentences, clearly labelled links using colour and one other alternative form (underline or button).
Display relevant images, culturally sensitive, “real situations” of people, simple drawings, support each image with a message of correct action, describe images with captions and alternative text.
Manage navigation with simple interactive features such as logo home links, primary navigation titles, dropdown headers, secondary navigation trail (breadcrumbs), page TOC and A-Z , standard search app with magnifying icon and back buttons.
Accessible for all
Comply with web accessibility guidelines (WCAG 2.0) and ensure all information is accessible online and in correct reading order for screen readers (VoiceOver, System Access and NVDA). Accessibility statement for public websites openly share with readers the initiatives and limitations in accessing the most from websites.
Match the Document Object Model order with visual order, prioritise heading elements with HTML, keep videos at two minutes in length, choose accessible carousels for keyboard users, highlight visible skip links and reduce flashing elements to no more than 3 times.
Improve understanding of services and information
People in the Australian community need easy to read information to help them get access to health services, understand and improve their health. Accurate, reliable and complete instructions help people learn, make health decisions and be actively involved in care.
1. Ramsay, I., Peters, M., Corsini, et al. (2017). Consumer health information needs and preferences: A rapid evidence review. Sydney. The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. https://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-06/consumer-health-information-needs-and-preferences-a-rapid-evidence-review.pdf
2. Dodson, S., Good, S., & Osborne, R. H. (2015). Health literacy toolkit for low and middle-income countries: A series of information sheets to empower communities and strengthen health systems. New Delhi. World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/205244/B5148.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
3. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion & U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). Health literacy online: A guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health web sites. https://health.gov/healthliteracyonline/2010/Web_Guide_Health_Lit_Online.pdf
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). Simply put a guide for creating easy-to-understand materials. https://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/simply_put.pdf
5. World Wide Web Consortium. (n.d.). Understanding WCAG 2.0. Visual Presentation: Understanding SC 1.4.8. https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/visual-audio-contrast-visual-presentation.html