How great medical infographics

can change the world, or patient behaviours at a minimum

by | Oct 31, 2019 | Communication

More people have access to healthcare facilities than before. Patients are keen to become co-managers of their own health, demanding access to good quality healthcare. Empowered patients make empowered decisions – often resulting in better outcomes for the patient.

At the same time, more South Africans have access to online information – a whopping 31,2 million internet users live in the country, 65 % of whom access the internet every day.

Most healthcare brand managers recognise the need to develop medical education materials for consumers/patients if they want to:
1. Raise awareness of a disease/condition
2. Enhance the patient’s understanding of their disease/condition
3. Encourage patients to seek out healthcare facilities and explore treatment options
4. Assist healthcare professionals communicate medical information to their patients
5. Improve patient compliance with treatment

Developing these medical education materials for the average consumer/patient can often be a challenging and frustrating process.

Often the materials produced are only created in English, expensive print format, are long-winded, copy heavy and peppered with complex, awkward and obscure medical jargon.

It’s no wonder that consumers forget up to 80 % of medical data presented to them.

You can change that – now – if you take action.

Why data visualisation works

Up to 80 % of the human brain is dedicated to visual processing like vision, visual memory, colours, shapes, movement, patterns, spacial awareness and image collections.

Readers tend to remember images better than words, especially over longer periods of time. Randy Krum refers to this as the Picture Superiority Effect in his book (Cool Infographics – Effective Communication with Data Visualization and Design).

It makes sense then, to assume that complex data can be made more memorable if it were presented as visual objects.

Consider, that many patients in public healthcare facilities may not speak English as their first language. Or, literacy and numeracy levels may be lower in certain parts of the country.

New evidence suggests that the representation of information in graphic format overcomes language barriers and enhances these patients’ understanding of their condition, and ability to make decisions about their treatment options. 

Medical Infographics

Designers and illustrators working with the healthcare industry till now, have used conventional ways to visualise data e.g tables, pie charts and bar graphs, histograms and images. 

But, if you need to get complex information across to consumers more effectively, a simple bar graph with a smattering of accompanying text will hardly get the job done.

Designers and copywriters at our agency have been developing much more engaging, creative and fascinating ways to transform complex clinical data into visual stories. One of the disciplines we use to achieve this is by creating medical infographics designed to change patient behaviour.

What is an infographic?

An infographic is usually a larger graphic design that combines data visualisations (e.g. graphs, pie charts or tables), illustrations, written information/text and images into a format that tells a simple and complete story. 

They are engaging, allowing a brand to visually communicate complex medical information in a colourful and concise manner.

It’s not brain surgery

It turns out that it’s less complicated for our brains to process infographics than pure text.

Randy Krum explains how when we read text alone, we may only remember 10 % of the information 3 days later.

If that information is presented as text combined with a relevant image we can remember as much as 65 % of the information 3 days later.

Mark Smiciklas elegantly describes how every word is a symbol (The Power of Infographics – Using pictures to communicate and connect with your audiences).

To read text, the brain needs to act as a decoder first, matching those letters with shapes stored in memory. From there the brain must figure out how all the letters fit together to form words, how words form sentences, and how sentences form paragraphs.

Medical Infographics

Although comprehension takes place in only a split second, when compared to how the brain deals with images, the process requires considerably more mental effort. 

One of the reasons we can process images faster than text is because of how the brain handles information. It processes data from pictures all at once but processes text in a linear manner

Medical Infographics

Consider the following example where daytime drowsiness is described as a side effect:

By using infographics, you make it physically easier for the consumer to relate and engage with the information you are presenting to them.

It’s a novelty thing

Our brains are designed to seek out things that are different. Information that is novel/unique in some way, or unusual, attracts the brain’s attentionInfographics make it easy for you to add that element of uniqueness to your medical education materials, and make it more noticeable to your target market.

Storytelling is part of the art

The best infographics do not only convey valuable information. They have a central storyline that will inform, entertain or persuade your audience to take action or change their behaviour.

A well-designed medical infographic will encompass all of the principles described above making it easier to present complicated medical information clearly and quickly, help improve patient understanding and recall of the facts being presented and give your brand the ability to communicate its key message effectively.

Medical Infographics

About the author:

Sohini Gowan

Sohini Gowan is XEIOH’s chief medical copywriter and health science strategist. She graduated as a pharmacist but is a storyteller at heart.

Her best ideas flow when she is out hiking with her dogs or climbing volcanoes or swimming with sharks – anything outside!

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