Top Tips for Creating Patient Education Material

4 min read
First Published: 
Jun 2012

Key Learnings contained in this article:

Information is an important part of the patient journey and central to the overall quality of each patient’s experience with your drug, treatment or product.

To help you get the best out of our free patient education material offer, we have created this blog post to help you identify what elements make good patient literature. If you haven’t already claimed your free patient education material then you can do so via this link.


Often one of the first elements looked at, and sometimes overlooked is language. It’s important to empathise with patients so that you don’t use the wrong type of language or tone. Here are some tips for getting the language right;

  • Use everyday language that people understand. Avoid jargon and acronyms, and use plain language to make it easier to read. If you use our free material, you will find it is already written in an easy to understand language.
  • Write as if you are speaking. Patients will find it easier to digest if they read the material as if you are saying it. Patients are reading your literature because they want to learn so they will be more receptive to narrative tones.
  • Use patient-friendly text. Use personal pronouns such as ‘we’ and ‘you’.
  • Do not use frightening language, for example, ‘electrodes will be put on your chest’. If it is difficult to avoid using some medical terminology, such as ‘nuclear medicine’, give an explanation.
  • Be helpful. Help people make decisions by giving facts about the risks, side effects and benefits.
  • Small blocks of text. Text is much easier digested in smaller manageable blocks and it is also more appealing to the eyes.
  • Short sentences. These are useful in descriptive texts such as instructions or advice.
  • Bullet or numbered points. These will ensure that points are broken down. Readers are also enticed to read further when in bulleted or listed formats.


If you do not have internal designers, you can and should use professional designers. It’s important to keep the theme of your patient education material consistent as this will aide navigation and increase readability. Here are some tips for good design practice;

  • Use backgrounds and textures wisely. Patient Education Material is primarily for imparting information. Don’t distract from the message with an overbearing background image, texture or colour.
  • Choose fonts that suit your audience. Font choices should support the overall theme or tone of your message. Remember the rule of three and don’t complicate your message with too many fonts in one piece. Make readability the determining factor. Google provide a great web font library to choose from.
  • Balance text and images. Increase interest in the text by interspersing graphics or illustration to cause the eye to pause when scanning the piece. Graphics are a great way to convey part of the message without overwhelming the reader with too many words.


Graphics and illustrations are very effective and should be in line with your communication principles. Where appropriate, use them to illustrate the text and the overall message.

Stale stock images will reduce the weight of your message as they are usually unrealistic and ironically non-representative of their intended audience. At the very least, use a stock image in a creative and new way by cropping them, changing the colours or taking out a background layer.

In this set of collateral brochures for Folk, A brand and creative consultancy, photos of everyday objects create interesting covers for each of the corporation’s different business branches. The images are all branded with a citrus orange colour so they work together. The image on each brochure cover relates to the nature of each type of business. For example, the direct-marketing brochure has an image of a cake, which looks like a pie chart. Although this has nothing to do with patient education material, it provides a clever way of delivering a message without being too complex. You might want to apply this concept to your own materials.

The power of a graph lies in its ability to convey a variety of complex relationships in a way that is difficult to describe in words, but is easily comprehended from a picture. When designing a graph, consider these points:

  • Don’t use 3D graphs. They are usually harder to interpret and more cluttered than 2D graphs
  • Avoid fussy, excessively complicated graph design;
  • Reduce clutter by removing key borders and gridlines;
  • Avoid bold shading or cross hatching which can cause distracting visual effects;
  • Use colour and shading sparingly as it distracts from the message;
  • Avoid graph designs that use keys. Where keys are unavoidable, use the simplest key available ;
  • When adding text, use plain English, and avoid jargon and repetition. In addition, use the same typeface as the graph (preferably a sans serif font), avoid fancy lettering and fonts, don’t mix upper and lower case lettering, and don’t box the text;
  • Where several graphs are used for similar types of information use, where possible, the same scales on the x– and y-axes; and
  • Where practicable avoid truncating the axes, unless it will inform rather than mislead the reader.


Best Graphic Design Principles for Tri-Fold Brochures

NHS Patient information; written information: general guidance

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Ruth Whittington
CEO of Rx Values Group Ltd
MSc(hons), NZSRN
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