Importance of format and design in print patient information

Cancer Pract. Jan-Feb 1999;7(1):22-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-5394.1999.07102.x.


Purpose: The purposes of this descriptive study were to: identify characteristics of print education materials that healthcare providers report as important to patients; compare whether Physician Data Query (PDQ) information that was provided in its original form, or was redesigned in color and black and white, influenced the distribution of this information; and explore whether providing PDQ information via patient information racks would increase patients' awareness of and use of PDQ information.

Description of study: Forty-four oncology healthcare professionals were asked to complete a survey identifying characteristics that they believed important for effective print educational materials. PDQ statements were reformatted and placed in brochure racks for a 6-month period. The number of statements distributed before and after this time period were compared. Subsequently, PDQ statements were placed sequentially for a 3-week period in brochure racks in the following formats: original form as printed from the computer, redesigned with color print; and redesigned with black ink only.

Results: The following characteristics were rated "very important" aspects of print educational materials by oncology healthcare professionals: appropriate reading level; clarity; credibility of the information; whether information is current/up-to-date; and patient acceptance of material. The characteristic receiving the fewest "very important" marks was attractiveness/eye appeal. The reported low marks on attractiveness/eye appeal contradict the concurrent findings that, after the redesign of PDQ statements (change in booklet size, use of color, increase in foot size for text and headings, and inclusion of a vertical bar to separate columns), there was a ninefold increase in the number PDQ statements distributed. Eighty-nine percent of the statements distributed were the redesigned version. The use of color, however, did not appear to make a difference in the number of PDQ statements disseminated after the redesign.

Clinical implications: In developing print education materials for cancer patients, the format, design, and placement of materials for patient access need to be considered. There are many valuable educational materials available on computer databases. Downloading the information and placing it in a brochure format may be an ideal approach for providing access to this information. Furthermore, because physicians and nurses have different priorities for printed patient education materials, it is important to involve both groups in the developments of the brochures.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / organization & administration
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Attitude to Computers
  • Color
  • Computer User Training
  • Databases, Factual / standards*
  • Educational Status
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Pamphlets*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Reading
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Teaching Materials / standards*