In the third in our series of blogs to mark Health Literacy Month, Elspeth Massey and Anneliese Levy explain why patient engagement should be at the heart of healthcare communications.
During Health Literacy Awareness Month, we’ve been hearing from some of our members about why making your healthcare content readable, digestible and accessible is so important. If you want your content to reach your target audience, it needs to be easily understood by everyone. One way of doing that is by putting people with lived experience right at the heart of your communications. Here we give our top three tips for engaging with patients to help your content shine and to make sure it’s relevant and right for them.
Tip 1: Engage as early as possible
People with lived experience of a particular health issue have important insights that can help shape and inform your work. Presenting them with a final product to comment on is too late.
By involving people with lived experience right at the start when developing your materials, you can incorporate their thoughts and knowledge every step of the way. Listening to their experiences and taking on board their comments at each stage of your project means your content will be more relevant and easily understood by those you’re trying to reach. It’ll also give you a unique perspective into the challenges patients and their families face and make sure you’re designing something that will make a positive impact.
Tip 2: Meaningful engagement
Supporting and valuing the contribution of people with lived experience is vital. It’s important that all voices are heard and that you engage with a diverse range of people. You need to listen, connect meaningfully and reimburse people for their time. Increasingly, co-production and partnership working is becoming the norm, meaning patients, carers and families are empowered to shape safe healthcare.
When thinking about incorporating lived experience in your work, make sure you:
- Have a range of options for how people can get involved, such as in-person, over the phone or online.
- consider their needs and preferences such as their accessibility needs.
- empower people and support them to be actively involved.
- give information to patients and their families ahead of time, including providing a clear idea of how they’ll be involved, what impact they’ll have and how and when you’ll follow up with them.
Tip 3: Learn from others
If you’re worried about where to start with patient engagement and embedding lived experience in your work, there’s lots of information available around best practice. Check out the Patient Information Forum or Involve UK for more advice. There are charities and patient organisations who can support and give insight on issues, and they can put you in touch with networks that can help.
At The Difference Collective, we have a range of experts in health literacy and lived experience. Talk to us about your project and see how we can help.
The Difference Collective is a group of health literacy experts, communicators and healthcare strategists. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you look at your organisation’s approach to health literacy and help you produce better health information.
Anneliese Levy is a health communications and research consultant with more than 18 years’ experience in the health sector. She specialises in patient engagement, user research and communications informed by health psychology insight.
Elspeth Massey is a former journalist and experienced communications professional. She uses her storytelling and communications expertise to support charities and patient organisations to find their voice, advocate for change and improve their communications.