Handling Complex Jargon
A UX approach to redefining the brand voice of a private practice
Have you ever been handed something from a doctor, looked down, and were greeted by a wall of text? How much of that did you read? How long did it take you to read it? If it were about a life-threatening condition you might have, you probably skimmed it pretty fast and then reread it later. But if it were about preventing UTIs or weight management chances are you didn’t read it at all. So how can we change this:
“Water is the best choice for quenching your thirst. Coffee and tea, without added sweeteners, are healthy choices, too. There are many options for what to drink, but for most people who have access to safe drinking water, water is the best choice: It’s calorie-free, and it’s as easy to find as the nearest tap. Water provides everything the body needs—pure H2O—to restore fluids lost through metabolism, breathing, sweating, and the removal of waste. It’s the perfect beverage for quenching thirst and re-hydrating your system. Infused water: Instead of purchasing expensive flavored waters in the grocery store, you can easily make your own at home. Try adding any of the following to a cold glass or pitcher of water: Sliced citrus fruits or zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit); Crushed fresh mint; Peeled, sliced fresh ginger or sliced cucumber; Crushed berries; Sparkling water with a splash of juice.”
Into something that you actually want to read? First things first, define the audience. The people who are receiving this text are patients and because this specific doctor focuses on women’s health, they are usually women. I want to narrow it down a bit further and say women between the ages of 30-60 who are pregnant or have pelvic pain. Now that we have our audience, we can begin looking at other healthcare content that caters to them.
From pelvic pain practices:
From Loyola Medicine: “Your Loyola doctor will first explore non-surgical treatments to alleviate your pelvic pain. However, if surgery is deemed the best treatment option, we perform the vast majority of procedures via laparoscopy, surgeon-guided robotic surgery or hysteroscopy. These approaches are known to reduce pain, scarring and recovery time. Loyola was also one of the first medical centers in the Chicago area to offer minimally invasive gynecologic surgery.”
From Kaiser Permanente: “Finding the cause of pelvic pain can be a long and frustrating process. You can help by keeping notes about the type of pain you have, when it happens, and what seems to bring it on. Show these notes to your doctor. They may give clues about what is causing the problem or the best way to treat it. And whether or not a cause is found, your doctor can suggest treatments to help you manage the pain.”
From Lifespan: “We understand the complexity of pelvic pain and its impact on quality of life. Each patient has a unique experience of pelvic pain. We offer individualized care based on your personal symptoms, and take a holistic approach to reduce your pain and to help you achieve optimal health and quality of life.”
Ok, so different clinics offer different approaches. Loyola is more focused on pushing how excellent their doctors and clinics are while Kaiser is more focused on the user’s experience. Lifespan is a decent mix of both. I still feel like these are pretty bland in terms of brand voice. Now let’s take a look at some different approaches to a brand voice in the medical field.
Articles On Medical Topics:
From Medium: “During the two decades I lived with pain, I was tested to my limits. I discovered strengths and also weaknesses — I get so bitchy that I’m ashamed to even think about it. Those who know me well, have learned to maintain their safety distance when I’m in crisis.”
From Thinx: “Few of us *want* our periods… until it randomly decides to skip town. Absent menstruation, aka amenorrhea, is defined by Auntie Flo no-showing for three to six months. Okay, let’s be real — we all know that there’s a certain amount of *discomfort* that comes along with having a period. However, *pain* that stops you from going about your day, or even makes it very difficult, could be your body warning you of another issue that needs to be addressed.”
From HealthPopuli: “While 75 million people in the U.S. have a smart people at home, only 1 in 13 Americans have used a voice assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant for health care. But over one-half of consumers would like to access a voice assistant for some aspect of their health care, according to a study from Orbita and Voicebot, Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption in Healthcare”
When content isn’t forced into the box of medical science, it can be fun and remain factual. This is important to constantly think about as I begin to rewrite this content. So moving forward, I’m going to do a few exercises. First, I’m going to write exactly what I think my audience wants to hear. Then I’m going to go back and write what they need to hear. Third, I’m going to approach the text from the first-person point of view and then a third-person point of view. Finally, after considering all these approaches, I’m going to rewrite the text in a way that is ideal for our audience.
“Stay healthy by staying hydrated. Calorie-free and easy to get your hands on, water is your greatest asset and if you’re looking to lose your… assets… it’s a great way to start. Don’t like the taste of nothing? Don’t worry! Freeze some of your favorite fruit and enjoy it in your next glass!”
For this approach, I’m putting myself in my users’ shoes. Honestly, I don’t want people telling me what I can and can’t eat or drink. I do, however, like DIYs and helpful tips about how to make something boring, more fun. So using a fun, light-hearted voice, I’m giving some health tips about water. Of course, there is the caveat that the phrase “if you’re looking to lose your… assets” might be offensive to some people. I’ll take this into account with the final edit.
“You should drink water regularly to stay hydrated. It can help with weight management as well. Coffee and tea are good alternatives, but avoid adding sweeteners into them. You can also add fruit and herbs to water, but avoid using liquid flavoring.”
So this exercise helps determine which information is most important. It’s to the point and you can’t argue with it. The short and sweet nature of it makes it easy to consume but doesn’t necessarily entice the reader. One of my primary concerns moving forward with this style of voice is SEO. A lot of these sentences contain a passive voice through words like ‘is’ and ‘are’. If this material only lives in print, it’s not a problem. But if it ends up published on the web, it’s not the best approach.
“I’m trying to get better at weight management but it’s just not something I want to think about. By cutting back on sodas and sugary drinks, I’m starting to take steps towards it though. I’m also getting past my sugar cravings by adding frozen pineapple and mint into my water bottle in the afternoon.”
This is another good way to put yourself in your users’ shoes. What would you think if you had to start weight management? I’d probably be a little annoyed. It’s not something that I go out of my way to think about, but probably something that I should since it’s important to your health. So I took that into account with this exercise.
“Lizzie’s chronic pelvic pain has been acting up. She knows it's probably because she hasn’t been consistently keeping up with her weight management routine. So what does Lizzie do? She looks to some of her friends for help. They suggest cutting out sodas and drinking more water. Lizzie still craves Sprite though, so she starts adding lime and ginger to some sparkling water.”
So this exercise was probably the most difficult for me. The third person is not the usual way I write but it was a learning experience. It brings up the question, “Where are my users’ going to get their information?”. It’s important to consider that patients don’t always get their information from their doctor, the internet and word of mouth are much easier ways to get content relative to your health. Whether it’s accurate or not is always debatable, but I can’t control that outside what I personally write.
For the final text, I want a good mixture of Example 1, 2, and just a touch of 3 and 4. The text needs to be approachable but feel factual. The last thing we want is for people walking out of the doctor’s office, doubting the information that you’ve just handed them.
“Stay healthy by staying hydrated. Water should be your go-to, but coffee and tea are great alternatives. Don’t worry, you can add a bit more flavor to your cup by mixing sparkling water with your favorite frozen fruit or a bit of juice.”
This text keeps the short, sweetness of Example 2, but still has some of the fun found in Example 1. It’s a good balance for a private practice that caters to a potentially older audience too since it’s not too open or preppy. I also made a solid effort to avoid the word weight. This can be a big reason for people to feel frustrated or unconfident in their healthcare experience.
I’m by no means a professional copywriter, simply a UX designer sharing my approach to a new situation that I’ve been placed in. If you have any feedback you’d like to share regarding the topic of this article please feel free to reach out anytime.