Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(4):572
The patient information handouts accompanying our clinical review articles are used in many ways. Our most recent reader survey shows that 31 percent of readers give an AFP information handout to patients at least once a week. The survey also shows that approximately half of our readers prefer to copy them from the printed journal and half prefer to print them from the Web site. Readers rated the educational handouts high for usefulness, visual appeal, and appropriate level of writing.
During a focus group we conducted last spring, several family physicians praised AFP’s handouts: “I love the patient handouts.” “My patients like the patient education material, so it helps me.” These readers also provided valuable input on how we can improve them.
How are Handouts Developed?
Most handouts are written by the authors of the article they accompany. The handout is reviewed and edited by one of AFP’s medical editors. In some cases, the AFP medical editing fellow may develop a handout to accompany an article. These are reviewed by other medical editors to ensure that the handout is accurate and up to date.
Occasionally, we publish “collections” of patient information handouts on a specific topic (see the collection on the topic of headaches in the November 1, 2005, issue). These handouts are developed by the AFP professional editors. Most of the information for these handouts is obtained from the American Academy of Family Physicians’ patient information Web site (https://familydoctor.org). Much of the material on this Web site was originally developed for and published in AFP.
Designed Specifically for Patients
The AFP handouts are written at a reading level that can be understood by a wide variety of people. We conduct a reading level analysis and aim for a 6th-grade reading level. Many of the handouts, such as those in this issue (pages 646, 653, 665, and 677), are written in a question and answer format. This structure is commonly used in patient education and is designed to conveniently answer typical patient questions about specific conditions (even questions patients might not think of).
We often commission illustrative art to help explain a condition. These usually are anatomical drawings to help you show your patients the body parts affected and explain the disease or disorder. Please see the handout on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in this issue (page 677) for an example of our anatomical drawings.
Most patient information handouts in AFP are one or two pages long. If there is room, we provide space for the physician to write notes or specific instructions to patients. The handouts are designed to be photocopied from the journal or printed from our Web site. We also provide information about how your patients can obtain more information. We can’t always ensure the accuracy or timeliness of another organization’s information, but we list contact information for highly respected organizations or groups.
Where Can I Find AFP Patient Handouts?
For your convenience, all the handouts in an issue are listed in the table of contents under the article title and on the second page as a group under the “Patient Information” heading. In addition, a patient handout is noted in the left margin on the first page of the article. We try to position the handout immediately after the article in the printed publication.
On the AFP Web site (https://www.aafp.org/afp), you can conveniently link to patient information handouts from the table of contents or from the beginning of a specific article. The handout also provides a link so that you can conveniently click back to the article if you wish. The Web site also provides a search box where you can type in a specific topic and search AFP contents or family doctor.org for more patient education.
Where Can I Get Updated Information?
AFP patient handouts are as current as we can make them when they are published. But medical information is always changing, and some may go out of date. The handouts on the AFP Web site are the archived version of the printed journal. For up-to-date information, we provide a link to familydoctor.org. The patient education on this Web site, including versions of AFP handouts, is reviewed, and updated as necessary, at least once a year.