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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(5):1086

When we first started publishing patient information in AFP, we recognized our readers' need for a reliable source of patient information, but we couldn't have guessed how fast our patient information handouts would gain momentum. AFP began publishing patient information in mid-1991, starting with just three handouts that year, 11 handouts the next year and 14 the year after that. In 1994, we published three times more handouts, and from there they skyrocketed, with almost 70 patient information handouts currently published each year.

Despite the level of expertise we've achieved through the publication of over 335 patient information handouts, with frequent praise from readers and a number of awards to our credit, we've had a sense that with just a little more finesse, our handouts—like hearty strands of straw—could be spun into fine threads of gold. We stepped back to look at our patient information handouts from a bird's-eye view, gathered the latest research on patient information, sought new feedback from our readers, and crafted a new set of standards.

Results of a survey published in the November 1, 1998 “Inside AFP” supported what we've learned from focus groups and other research: that less is more when it comes to patient information. Patients learn and retain more from handouts that are short, easy to read and well illustrated.

Starting with the January 1, 1999 issue, AFP introduced a new look for patient information handouts, with larger type and narrower columns designed to improve reading ease. We've made a commitment to reduce the length of handouts whenever possible, and we're on the lookout for concepts that are best conveyed through illustrations. We're also reinforcing our editorial processes with extra reviews of handouts by physicians and patients, with the goal of making your jobs as educators just a little bit easier.

Many thanks to the readers who responded to the recent patient information survey. From time to time, we'll check back with you to see how well we're doing. If you would like to browse through previously published handouts online, go to AFP's home page ( or the AAFP's new patient information web site ( You can send your comments to me at 8880 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO 64114 (telephone: 800-274-2237; fax: 816-333-0303; e-mail:

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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