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  Hints to Help You Write Effective Handouts
  Are Medical Brochures
  What Makes an Effective
  Purchase or Make Your Own?
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  If Making your Own...
  The U-Write Solution
A) Content    B) Illustrations   C) Design    D) Production
By Content, we mean the text - the words that are printed on the paper. Since you are a medical professional, you are the content expert. Your challenge: to capture the information on paper. A few suggestions:
Start with an outline.
Take the time to outline your brochure. See if it makes sense as a whole before you begin putting too much effort into individual paragraphs.
Consider writing using a question and answer format.
It's often easy to recall the typical questions patients have asked you, and a very effective handout can be made once you've written the questions out, answered them, then sorted the information into a logical order.
Interview co-workers to get your creative juices flowing.
If you team up with others, the writing process will be quicker. Interview your co-workers, asking for their input on the patient experience. Ask others what they think needs to be emphasized in each handout.
Start with public domain content, then edit it to make it your own
The United States government has a number of health articles, available via mail order, and often available on the Web as well. Look for the publications identified as public domain, so that you can freely use the content. But then make the effort to customize the content to meet your needs.To see just how much information is available, take a moment and visit National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
Limit the objective of each handout.
A key step to writing a good brochure is remembering your audience. As a professional, you may be fascinated by the difference between the CO2 laser and the holmium laser. But most patients don't care. They want to know if the procedure will hurt! Work to limit your content to what matters to the average patient. One writer recommends writing for your Mom. That's a good idea. Keep the content simple, and stay focused on what the average patient cares about.
Look for opportunities to limit the objective of your handouts. A brochure on diabetes will be too long, or too general. A brochure on why diabetics need to schedule regular eye exams is much more likely to be short and useful.
Likewise, look for opportunities to segment your target audience into smaller, more homogeneous groups. For example, you can expect to grow your pediatric business if you have a separate set of handouts targeting the parents of younger patients.
Bring in a professional writer.

Although it costs, sometimes the best solution is to hire a professional writer. One possible source of talent: the American Medical Writers Association.

The Economics of Out-Sourcing
At first glance, simply hiring an agency to hiring out the entire handout creation process is tempting. But remember: you want a series of brochures, not just one. That's because your patients really don't want a handout that's about you and your practice. They want handouts that are about them - specifically their conditions. Thus practices need to budget for multiple titles. That can be expensive when you're outsourcing the entire process.
The 80/20 Rule of Practice Handouts

80% of any handout should be directly relevant to the recipient. That means that 80% of any handout should specifically address the condition or procedure that that patient is seeing you about. But don't be afraid to put the sssremaining 20% to work promoting your facility. As that handout circulates among the patient's friends and relatives, each will learn not just about the condition, but about the advantages of your facility in treating that condition.

Limiting the Objective of Handouts
Think about two heart attack patients. One is 70-years old, and has been treated for heart disease for years. The other is 35-years old, and athletic. Too many practices give the same "After Your Heart Attack" handout to each MI patient. Even if you only have the time/energy/budget to create one MI brochure, take a few minutes to type up an insert focusing on each population's specific concerns.
The Importance of an Appropriate Reading Level
An appropriate reading level will make or break your handout. Reading level can be measured using the Flesh-Kincaid Index, the Fog Index, SMOG-testing, the Fry Formula, and a host of other approaches. But reading level tests are often limited to counting syllables in words, and words in sentences. Use common sense. The instruction, "Do not induce vomiting" scores very well on a syllable- and word-counting text, but is it really 3rd grade reading level?
  A) Content    B) Illustrations   C) Design    D) Production
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