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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Healthcare and Tech Writing

The pen is not only mighter than the sword, it's also much more helpful.

This applies to a datasheet or user manual on medical device, website content for a hospital or medical center, patient information website, or a white paper of insurance policies.  Having clear and accurate information can be the difference between life and death in some situations. So this is an area where good technical writing skills become critical, because people's lives depend on it.

Regardless of how one views the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare), it has opened the doors of healthcare to technical writers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increasing complexity of medical and scientific information will continue to create more opportunities for technical writers.

Even from just personal observation, I noticed more healthcare-related gigs or jobs for technical and medical writers. Just do an internet search and you'll see. As a technical writer, you just not only have just plethora of opportunities, but you might be able to have a chance to play a part in improving healthcare.

One of the fundamental problems with healthcare as it's currently implemented is it doesn't seem address the issue of cost. 

According to a CBS article written earlier this year, healthcare costs will continue to rise in 2016. However, it may not be all doom and gloom. A recent PWC study shows virtual care, new health advisers, and the eventual "Cadillac tax" might lower costs. Whether any of these factors mentioned here increase or decrease costs remains to be seen.

But what are the factors of the increasing costs? Inefficiency and waste certainly play a role.

So what does this have to do with technical writers? Our organizational and writing prowess can at least help improve efficiency and reduce the amount of time wasted weeding through the vague and disorganized language in healthcare plans and information. If we are able to easily guide people through the healthcare world with easy-to-follow language and documentation, then we might be able to put practical steps in motion to reduce healthcare costs. There are two important things we need when it comes to healthcare documentation.

Importance of accurate content

Having accurate content is fundamental to good documentation, especially healthcare. This should be self-explanatory. But for those who don't have many scruples against inaccurate information, let me explain why this important. Inaccurate health information can cause harm to others and sometimes death. This will cause members to lose trust in the health care organization, which in turn could cause it to shut down, and you would be out of a job.

Now if you're working for an organization that doesn't care about accurate information, then get away from it as fast as you can. You don't want to be associated with something that it's incompetent in caring for its customers or doesn't care about them at all.

The member or the healthcare worker is responsible for finding accurate information. But, you should play a role by supplying accurate content. Ask the right questions and make sure each you understand what the SME is saying. Have them check the content you documented. People's live are at stake.

Importance of clear content

If the information is unclear, let's says a how to instruction on operating a medical device, then these unclear instructions might cause harm or death to the one using the device. This is not something you want on your conscience. Again, make you ask the right questions and understand what the SME is saying. Do a QA check on the documentation to make sure it's clearly communicating the message it's trying to convey. You'll be surprise how many changes you might need to make sure as you go step-by-step with the product or service you're documenting. Doing the check can go a long way and will save lives in the process.

Give purpose to your career

You need to have passion for people's health and well being. Otherwise, the quality of documentation in healthcare will suffer. If you want to give meaning to what you're doing as a technical writer, then writing in the healthcare field is a place to fulfill that meaning. People's lives depend on it.

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