Educating parents with an office newsletter

August 1, 2007

An office newsletter is an ideal way to teach parenting skills, announce practice policies, pass on health care recommendations, and reinforce instructions on managing a child's illness.

During any office visit, the face-to-face time that a pediatrician has with a parent is limited. An anxious or tired parent may have trouble recalling issues discussed, or the detailed instructions that you provide for the care of their child. For these reasons, it is wise for pediatricians to look into other ways of communicating with parents. An office newsletter is an ideal way to teach parenting skills, announce practice policies, pass on new health care recommendations, and reinforce instructions on managing a child's illness.

Creating an office newsletter

It's relatively simple to use an office computer and laser printer to produce an office newsletter. Desktop publishing software suites such as Adobe InDesign CS3 and QuarkXPress 7 are market leaders, but one of the easiest to use is Microsoft Publisher. Publisher is part of the Microsoft Office suite, and features a very intuitive interface.

Choose one staff member to be the editor, to handle producing, printing, and distributing the newsletter. Make sure each article is written in lay language, and is long enough to convey an effective message but short enough to keep the audience reading. Color will make it more appealing than black and white. Mention your sources of information. Start simple, with a two- or four-page quarterly newsletter. Increase the frequency or page count once you have some experience.

Cost may prohibit mailing them to all parents. Therefore, distributing your newsletter to parents during office visits is cheaper. Or, you can email a PDF of the newsletter for no cost at all. Also, figure out if it's cheaper go to a print shop like Kinko's or use the office laser printer.

Getting the most from the newsletter

You will be surprised how quickly your "library" of newsletter issues will accumulate. Having a collection of past issues in each exam room lets you conclude a visit by handing a parent a copy of the issue with an article related to the patient's diagnosis. The issue will remind the parent of your conversation with them. You may also want to keep a library of newsletters in the waiting room, so parents can peruse them or take some home if they find topics of interest.

The newsletter can also be a marketing tool. Give a sample copy to parents who are thinking about joining your practice. Your newsletter can be seen by new parents via day care facilities or obstetricians. The issues can also be archived on your practice's Web site.

Reaping the benefits

The information in a pediatric practice newsletter can go a long way toward dispelling health care myths and misinformation. Additionally your late-night phone calls from concerned parents will be reduced dramatically, since they already know when to call for a fever, say, and when not to call. Parents also might seek visits earlier in the course of their child's illness-be it an exacerbation of asthma, a case of croup, or gastroenteritis. This often avoids hospitalizations for conditions that are easier to treat when caught early.