Clinicians should use ‘plain English’ and use shorter sentences when writing to patients.
‘Please Write to Me’ from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges advises healthcare professionals to write their letters in a style that is understandable and relatable to their patients.
The change is intended to ensure patients have a better understanding, offer reassurance and avoid confusion, mistakes or offence.
Outpatient letters are often used to reinforce important information that was presented during an appointment alongside updating the patients GP on changes to the patients’ ongoing management.
Use ‘plain English’.
The organisation has said healthcare professionals should avoid using terms that may confuse patients and substitute them with ‘plain English’ terms instead. They offer the following examples;
- Twice daily should be used instead of BD.
- Kidney should be used instead of renal.
- Irregular pulse should be used in place of atrial fibrillation (or AF).
Other advise includes; using shorter sentences, removing redundant words, and covering only a single topic per paragraph.
Images instead of complex explanations.
The guidelines also add that practitioners should try and use images instead of complex explanations.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges said: “Communicating effectively with patients is central to being a good doctor.
“Writing an outpatient clinic letter directly to the patient, rather than sending them a copy of a letter sent to their GP, can greatly improve communication with a patient.
“Patients who receive such letters much prefer them, are very appreciative, and would like more doctors to write them in this way.”