Vejledt eller vildledt? Et speciale om læsbarheden af danske indlægssedler

Stine Folkenberg Hedegaard

Student thesis: Master thesis


Helpful patient information or a source of confusion? A thesis on the readability of Danish patient information leaflets Despite extensive legislation from the EU institutions, many older Danes have trouble reading and understanding patient information leaflets (PILs) for non-prescription and prescription medication. Consequently, there is a general dissatisfaction with the quality and readability of Danish PILs, and medication users often blame the pharmaceutical companies. Due to this general dissatisfaction, this thesis seeks to uncover the reason why Danish pharmaceutical companies seem to produce PILs that do not live up to the expectations and reading skills of older Danish medication users, and how to possibly adapt the readability to those users. In order to uncover that, this thesis includes a number of translation and communication theories, which are relevant when communicating health-related information to medication users, and surveys on the reading skills of Danish adults. These surveys include the International Adult Literacy Survey, which forms the basis of any analysis of reading skills, and deals with the fundamental abilities to read and understand everyday texts. While it is always important to gain knowledge of a target group’s reading skills before communicating information to it, it is also important to consider the type of information. When dealing with user guides and medical language, any communicator should therefore keep the purpose and design of the target text in mind, and for this reason, this thesis includes Vermeer’s Skopos theory, Byrne’s theories on readability and usability, Resurreció & Davies’ theories on patient information, and the expert opinions of Lotte Holm and Annie Hagel, which are employed to analyze the purpose, language and design of Danish PILs. Obtaining insight into the purpose and design of a text prior to communicating it is very important, when one seeks to produce a readable target text. However, when this target text is subject to extensive legislation, there is an extra set of rules to be followed. The directives and recommendations for producing a Danish PIL - laid down by the EU institutions and the Danish Medicines Agency - are also included in the theory section of this thesis as well as the opinions of readability consultancies. All pharmaceutical companies are encouraged to seek assistance from readability consultancies, and all Danish PILs must comply with the legislation in order to be marketed and of high quality. These areas of theory and surveys collectively form the basis of the analysis in this thesis. 26 opinions of older Danish medication users have been gathered for the analysis and 11 of these claim to need more readable PILs. The general dissatisfaction with the readability of Danish PILs therefore seems understandable. The analysis indicates that the legislation limits and challenges the pharmaceutical companies, and that it keeps them from producing readable and customized PILs. Generally, all Danish pharmaceutical companies are in terms of communication bound hand and foot and lack communicative knowledge. It would therefore seem that Danish PILs can be adapted to older medication users in a higher degree, and that the instructions in similar fashion can be communicated in a more readable way – both in terms of language and design. If Danish pharmaceutical companies paid more attention to purpose, target group, and reading skills, they would most likely achieve a better result – despite legal limitations and lack of communicative knowledge.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages87