This study evaluated the feasibility of developing linguistically tailored educational messages designed to match the linguistic styles of patients segmented into types with the Descriptor™, and to determine patient preferences for tailored or standard messages based on their segments.
Twenty patients with type 2 diabetes (T2DM) were recruited from a diabetes health clinic. Participants were segmented using the Descriptor™, a language-based questionnaire, to identify patient types based on their control orientation (internal/external), agency (high/low), and affect (positive/negative), which are well studied constructs related to T2DM self-management. Two of the seven self-care behaviors described by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (healthy eating and taking medication) were used to develop standard messages and then linguistically tailored using features of the six different construct segment types of the Descriptor™. A subset of seven participants each provided feedback on their preference for standard or linguistically tailored messages; 12 comparisons between standard and tailored messages were made.
Overall, the tailored messages were preferred to the standard messages. When the messages were matched to specific construct segment types, the tailored messages were preferred over the standard messages, although this was not statistically significant.
Linguistically tailoring messages based on construct segments is feasible. Furthermore, tailored messages were more often preferred over standard messages. This study provides some preliminary evidence for tailoring messages based on the linguistic features of control orientation, agency, and affect. The messages developed in this study should be tested in a larger more representative sample. The present study did not explore whether tailored messages were better understood. This research will serve as preliminary evidence to develop future studies with the ultimate goal to design intervention studies to investigate if linguistically tailoring communication within the context of patient education influences patient knowledge, motivation, and activation toward making healthy behavior changes in T2DM self-management.