Steve Jobs and the Referral Letter
Famously, Steve Jobs attended a calligraphy class when at Reed College - because it looked interesting. "I learned about serif and sans serif typeface, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating"
As a result, the Mac had multiple typefaces and proportionally spaced fonts. If Jobs hadn't explored that course, "it's likely that no personal computer would have them".
Paying attention to details like typefaces, spacing and paragraphs may seem small; however, the documents that we send out of our surgeries play a central role in the 3rd of our “three jobs” - enabling other members of a patient's care team to do their jobs well. A referral letter that is well structured can dramatically improve the clarity of the information we provide.
Referral letters also reflect our brand. High quality letters - in content and structure - create a favourable impression about our practice to our patients and to other clinicians.
This article will focus on structure. Content will be addressed in future articles..
How long since you have reviewed the templates your practice uses for referral letters? How much are you taking advantage of the typography tools that Steve Jobs introduced in 1984?
Here are some things you might consider
- remove information that doesn't add value
- make the important information easy to find
- use a font that looks professional - not bland (Arial) but not silly (Comic Sans)
- include your practice website and email address
- where possible, get all the information on one page
- use macros to make commonly used expressions easy to add
- use white space (including indentation) to improve readability
- look at letters you receive from others for inspiration
In my practice, we hadn't changed our templates for more than 10 years. I had a crack at updating them last weekend. You can view the results in our Community Knowledge Base. Have you any suggestions? It would be great if you could send us examples of letters that have an excellent format, or perhaps some that could be improved. As always, lets steal shamelessly and share generously.