Patient Education Vol1 No1


By Dr. Dorothy L. Smith Expert in safe medication use, author of 23 books for consumers on prescription drugs, and President of Consumer Health Information Corporation.

Improving Profits by Informing Patients

Vol. 1 No. 1

peu_smith2Dr. Dorothy L. Smith is an internationally recognized expert in patient education, patient compliance, and behavior modification programs. She has devoted her career to helping people make informed decisions about health care and use of medications. Dr. Smith is the author of 23 books and has appeared on radio and television programs across the country to increase awareness of the important role consumers play in their prescription drug therapy.

In 1983, she founded Consumer Health Information Corporation, a company internationally recognized for its innovative patient information programs. The organization has produced a broad range of print and audiovisual programs that have helped millions of people learn to make wise decisions about their health and medications. The company is a teaching site for several schools of pharmacy across the United States and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Patient Information and Education.

The consumer will be the final judge of all the patient communication materials you produce for them. If you can develop patient information that is written in language that patients can understand and incorporates behavior modification techniques, you will be able to convince the patient that the information is important to their own personal health. Patients will start taking their medications correctly. The health care system will start working as it should .. and I can guarantee that the product’s ROI will increase because patients will not drop out of therapy and will refill their prescriptions.

What Every Product Manager Should Ask:
    • Do you know the potential patient compliance problems patients can be expected to encouter with the medication? The disease?
    • Do your patient education materials use proven behavior modification techniques that will improve patient compliance
    • Is your patient education program integrated into your marketing plan?
    • Does your program help recover the 10% loss in sales when patients decide not to fill their initial prescriptions?
    • Does your program help recover the 30-85% loss in sales when patients decide not to refill prescriptions?

Remember: If patients do not understand how to use the medication, all the resources spent to develop a medication, market it, and develop the patient education materials are lost.


How to give medicine to an infant using an oral syringe? Point the tip to the inside cheek or backside of the mouth. This will help prevent choking or drooling.

Patients with asthma should not carry their inhalers in their pockets? Patients might inhale coins that get stuck in the inhaler.

97% of Patient Education Materials Don’t Work …Do Yours?

Research shows that 97% of the patient education materials from pharmaceutical companies and national health organizations can’t be understood by the average consumer.

Why? Because almost all of these materials are written beyond the average person’s reading level. In addition, poor design and layout often compound the problem.

How does this affect the chances a patient will fill a prescription, use and store it correctly, and refill it at the proper time?

The results are shocking. 10% of all prescriptions are never filled. The impact on both initial and refill sales is enormous.

Even if the patient has the prescription filled, nearly 50% of all prescription medications are used incorrectly. The product never has a chance to be effective.

And finally, as many as 30% of all refillable prescriptions are never refilled. Sales for medications for chronic conditions suffer the most.

What happens when your product isn’t used correctly? peu_dollar

  • The patient may not respond to the medication.
  • The patient may stop taking the medication.
  • The physician may prescribe another medication.

Regardless, your product is discontinued prematurely. You lose sales.

Your Materials Must Meet the Patient’s Needs

Patients need to be convinced that the medication will help them, and that it’s important to take it exactly as prescribed.

Effective patient information:

  • Contains practical information.
  • Is written in language the patient can understand.
  • Can be used easily by physicians, pharmacists, and patients.
  • Convinces the patient to fill the prescription and take it correctly.
  • Helps patients manage complicated dosage times and side effects

The average consumer reads between the 6th and 8th grade levels. Yet studies show that most patient education materials are written at the 9th grade to college reading level. This means patients can’t understand them.

Researchers evaluating patient comprehension found consumers couldn’t understand many of the medical terms used in patient education materials. (See Chart)

No wonder many consumers ignore pamphlets and package inserts

peu_chart1 [Click to to see enlarged view]

One Program That Works!


A study conducted by the University of Mississippi Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences evaluated 63 Patient Package Inserts (PPI’s ) developed by pharmaceutical manufacturers, PPI vendors, and associations.

The study scored the patient education materials on a “user-friendliness index” that evaluated readability, design and printing.

The results? The mean reading level of the materials evaluated was substantially higher than the recommended reading level for consumers.

Of all the materials evaluated, “A Path to Healthy Living,” a disease management booklet for persons newly diagnosed with Type II diabetes, received the highest score.

This patient education program was developed by Consumer Health Information Corporation. “A Path to Healthy Living” received the Gold Award from the National Health Information Awards program and was a finalist in the prestigious Global Awards.


Consumer Health Information Corporation is an internationally recognized leader in the development and production of patient education programs for pharmaceutical companies, managed care organizations, and consumers.

Consumer Health Information Corporation

(703) 734-0650 | Fax (703) 734-1459

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