The Power of Accessible Language

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“Rogue Clients” is a blog series featuring our rockstar clients and the important stories we help them share.  


Imagine you’re in a hospital room. You’re about to get surgery that requires anesthesia. Even though the anesthesiologist explained the process to you twice, you were too embarrassed to ask clarifying questions. You still don’t know which needle will go where and what will happen after you count backwards from ten.

Now imagine you didn’t speak English. Even with an interpreter translating verbatim, you still don’t really understand what’s going to happen to you. You’re terrified.

At RogueMark Studios, we’ve been imagining these scenarios. We’ve just wrapped up a video project with the Dr. Laura Lang, an anesthesiologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The project focused on making anesthesia information more accessible for the patients at ZSFGH.

There is no "typical" patient at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. 

Walk into any waiting room at ZSFGH and you’ll see a diverse group of people: immigrant families, people grappling with drug addiction, marginally housed folks, people struggling with psychological disorders, and even a young techie or two.  

Many of ZSFGH’s patients come from underserved communities, where factors like socioeconomic status, lack of stable housing and food sources, language barriers, and low-health literacy levels create health disparities. As a result, the knowledge gap between providers and patients tends to be even wider than usual.

Dr. Lang never forgets this disparity. “This is the patient population that we treat,” Dr. Lang said. “There need to be concerted efforts to close that gap and to address those health disparities.”

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Unfortunately, medical conversations often break down because of inaccessible language. 

When anesthesia teams use language that is too technical and jargony, patients often have trouble following along. Consider the difference between “epistaxis” and “nosebleed,” or “varicella” and “chickenpox.”

Communication becomes even more convoluted when the patient and provider don’t speak the same language. Even with an interpreter present, important medical information, like side effects and risks, might still get “lost in translation.”

Every patient deserves to understand exactly what type of anesthesia they’ll receive, why they’re receiving it, and which risks and side effects are involved. That way, they can feel safe before, during, and after their procedure and are able to make shared decisions with their anesthesia team.

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Dr. Lang reached out to RogueMark for help. 

On the RogueMark side, this project was a challenge. But after months of collaboration with Dr. Lang and her anesthesia team, we’ve created a series of animated videos that:

  • Simplify the language around anesthesia (without losing its accuracy)

  • Use realistic yet non-intimidating visuals (No one wants to see a needle stuck in someone’s spine!)

  • Are translated into English, Spanish and Cantonese, the 3 languages most commonly spoken by Dr. Lang’s patients

The roguemark videos help patients better understand their anesthesia procedures.

Already, Dr. Lang has seen the improvements in the conversations between her anesthesia team and patients. By watching the videos (in whichever language they choose), the patients are able to link visual representations with medical information. They can replay the videos as many times as they want, and they can pause them at any time to ask their anesthesia team clarifying questions.

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Accessible language is a radical act of empowerment, empathy, and inclusion. 

By translating complex anesthesia information into engaging videos, Dr. Lang helped bridge the knowledge gap for her patients, many of whom have lower health-literacy levels. More importantly, the videos provide her patients with an accessible entry point into conversations with their anesthesia team.

At RogueMark, we’re lucky enough to help tell stories that matter. This project is definitely one of them. We’re so grateful to have worked with Dr. Lang and her amazing team, and we’re inspired by their hard work and empathy.