Posted By Lexington Writing Firm on 07/22/2021

Sensitivity Review: Increasing Accessibility, Inclusion and Success for Healthcare Content

Sensitivity Review: Increasing Accessibility, Inclusion and Success for Healthcare Content

Patient satisfaction and trust in the healthcare system have been on the decline in recent years, with 2020 hitting the lowest level of patient satisfaction in nearly two decades. 

With patient mistrust on the rise, optimizing every stage of the patient journey to communicate respectfully is imperative. Whether it be through web copy, blog articles, physician bios, patient stories, press releases or other marketing or communications deliverables, it is important to develop content that has inclusivity and equity at its core. 

At Lexington Writing Firm, our equity-focused process incorporates a sensitivity review as an essential step in creating inclusive, trust-building content. 

What is sensitivity review? 

Common in the literary sphere, sensitivity review (often also referred to as “sensitivity reading”) is the practice of examining content for authenticity, problematic language and internalized bias. 

Categories covered in sensitivity reviews include age, race, ethnicity, culture, disability, gender, gender identity, nationality, physical and mental illness, religion, political view, sex, sexual orientation, regional experiences (urban, rural, etc.), socioeconomic status, educational background and more.

The goal is to help create content that is accurate, relevant and developed with sensitivity and diversity at its core. It does so by ensuring up-to-date and accurate terminology, as well as examining representation so that specific populations are not presented in a stereotypical or derogatory manner. Content is also analyzed for accuracy, checking that it is based on research and information is cited and sourced as much as possible.

During a sensitivity review, all components of the content are reviewed: text and language, as well as images, illustrations and media. It considers who is pictured and why? Are there other images that can help balance the narrative? This holistic approach to content supports more inclusive communications for an organization. 

Why it’s important for healthcare

A 2009 study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that people who say they mistrust healthcare organizations are less likely to take medical advice, keep follow-up appointments or fill prescriptions. 

Incorporating a sensitivity review into your process for content creation can help an organization strengthen market share throughout all patient populations by pointing out opportunities to build trust and engagement. It centralizes the audience and communicates an awareness of common questions or concerns for the relevant population.

Sensitivity review is a systematic and pragmatic way for healthcare marketers and communicators to more fully realize their organization’s brand promise of being equitable and providing outstanding care for all. 

How does it concretely add value for healthcare content? 

A trained sensitivity reviewer analyzes all content to ensure that it communicates respectfully to all audiences, never to a “default” patient or provider.  

For example, labor and delivery content often includes language about mother-baby bonding. Adding content to include information regarding family bonding for same-sex couples, adoptive parents, single parents and intersex, non-binary and transgender parents enables the organization to speak more inclusively to the prospective patients being addressed. Additionally, a sensitivity review identifies opportunities to exhibit an awareness of different family structures. Instead of writing “you and your child” or “as the parent of,” a sensitivity review recommends broadening the scope to be more inclusive of all families and guardians. 

A sensitivity review will also identify opportunities to use up-to-date language. For example, “minority” is often used in healthcare content, but this term is considered to be outdated, since non-white Americans comprise a majority of the population in many regions and the term reinforces ideas of inferiority and marginalization of a group of people. Instead, be as specific as possible about who you are addressing and avoid generalizations. 

Finding a sensitivity reviewer 

There isn’t currently a formal standard or certification for sensitivity review. When looking for a sensitivity reader, we strongly recommend seeking someone with a background or education in American studies or psychology, or who has experience with or interest in underrepresented or historically disenfranchised communities.  

Signs that your team would benefit from working with a sensitivity reviewer 

As a healthcare marketer or communicator, you may have never worked with a sensitivity reviewer before. You may find it highly beneficial if you and your team are: 

  • Creating content with the goal of connecting more deeply and effectively with specific patient populations

  • Working to expand your market share and need to establish or grow trust to do so 

  • Struggling to create content that connects with two or more patient populations simultaneously 

  • Held back by the fear of “saying the wrong thing” or seeming out of touch 

  • Desiring to produce content that communicates more boldly about your organization’s efforts to provide equitable care

At Lexington Writing Firm, we have found sensitivity review to be an invaluable process for our clients. That is why it is performed on all content that we create. Our clients also entrust us to perform sensitivity review on content that they have written. 

Interested in how your organization could incorporate sensitivity review into your content creation process? Want to create more inclusive, trust-building content? Email to learn more about our expertise.


The original version of this page was published at: