4 research tips for your next medical story

Advice on how to balance information from high-level experts while keeping things crystal clear for the rest of us.

As a medical communicator, I’ve written a number of articles requiring research. Luckily, I love the research aspect of my job and enjoy learning with each piece.

Not everyone is like me. What if the research doesn’t come easily? What if your job is to turn a verbose research paper or content-packed PowerPoint into something that a non-clinical audience would want to read and can easily understand?

Here are a few tips from our clients to keep in mind:

Write interview questions as you research. If there’s something you don’t understand in the research, ask your interviewee to explain it. Sometimes clinicians believe a PowerPoint or academic paper will tell the story on its own.

If you’re facing resistance to an interview, let your expert know that you’re writing for both a scientific and a general audience. A brief phone interview—or answers to some questions via email—will greatly improve your content. UC Health has posted a detailed yet easily understood story on curing pancreatitis; in it, the writer paraphrased a doctor’s explanation of a surgery.

Pretend you know nothing. Be sure to explain medical terms and procedures succinctly, so a broad audience will grasp it. The pericarditis page at Aurora Health Care’s website delves into pericarditis in a way that’s accessible to the layperson.

Spell out and explain acronyms. Instead of using a medical acronym like CLABSI, say that hospital patients could suffer from infections if they have a central line that’s used to administer medication, nutrients or blood products.

Start with a story. Readers want to hear about how the research might affect them. For example, the nuts and bolts of research into the causes of infections that afflict newborns can be rather dry.

By contrast, the lede in this story focuses on the human element, drawing readers in to an article published in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Research Horizons.

The original version of this post was published here.

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