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Improving patient communication by writing with empathy

Texte >>

Lang S, Esser M. Medical Writing 2012; 21(4): 305-307


Prinicples of empathic texts


Medical writers’ texts are either written for specialists or for non-professionals such as patients and their relatives. Medical writers whose work is intended for patients cannot merely impart facts. They also need to demonstrate that they comprehend the patient’s emotions – they must write with empathy. Empathic texts are intelligible, credible, and are written from the patient’s perspective. They can help patients realistically appreciate their situation and assess the advantages and disadvantages of different therapy options. In this way, empathic writing can promote health-conscious behaviour and can foster treatment adherence.


Medical writers’ texts are usually directed toward specialists such as licensing authorities or the scientific community. Increasingly, though, medical writers also find themselves writing for nonprofessionals, including patients and their relatives, because decisions regarding diagnostic procedures and treatment are no longer made exclusively by physicians and therapists. In the digital and print media, patients search for and find information about pharmaceuticals and medical procedures and – armed with this knowledge – seek out clinics and medical practices that offer what they feel best fits their needs. Texts written for the purpose of patient communication can help them to realistically appreciate their situation and assess the advantages and disadvantages of the various therapy options.


Successful patient communication is especially crucial in cases of chronic illness, which result in complex, regular treatment routines over an extended period of time. Furthermore, in some situations, treatment becomes the responsibility of the patients themselves. In such cases, effective patient communication can contribute to more health-conscious behaviour. This also fosters adherence, a factor that is often decisive for a therapy’s efficacy, because patients will only adhere to the treatment plan when they accept the need for the regimen, understand how to deal with medicines and medical application devices, and are prepared for possible side-effects... [vollständiger Text bei Medical Writing]