Just two decades ago, when people had a sore throat or a lump on their body, they visited the doctor, got a diagnosis, got some medicine and went on their way.
Today, the internet is the first stop for patients seeking medical information. Though many people still visit their doctor for help, most people don’t think twice before Googling their symptoms and finding causes.
While it’s great to see people interested in their health, the internet has raised two problems:
- Sometimes search results replace a doctor’s advice with questionable medical advice websites
- Some of the medical advice out there is totally inaccurate
That’s disappointing, as people shouldn’t publish false medical advice. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for you to set your healthcare practice apart through content marketing. Unlike many of these questionable websites, you are medical experts, and you can use your expertise to help people and influence them in a positive way.
Today, we dive into what content marketing is in healthcare, explain how you can create a content strategy for your practice, and answer frequently asked questions about content marketing.
- What is content marketing?
- What’s the purpose of content marketing in healthcare?
- Does healthcare content need to be HIPAA compliant?
- How can you create a content marketing strategy for healthcare?
What is content marketing in healthcare?
Simply put, content marketing for healthcare is the creation of educational materials that help patients understand their health or medical problems. Everything from a blog article about cardiology to a social media post about skin cancer to a video about a lung procedure can be a part of content marketing.
What’s the purpose of content marketing?
Content marketing is a long-term content strategy, and when done well, establishes your practice as an authority in the space. Google prefers sites with rich, unique content and ultimately wants to see that you are taking the time to invest in showing why you are a subject matter expert.
Through this content, you are also able to create a strong bond with your readers – so strong that they choose you as their healthcare provider.
Does Healthcare Content Need to Be HIPAA Compliant?
Yes, you want your content to be compliant with HIPAA guidelines, especially if you plan on using customer stories. If you break HIPAA compliance, you may get fined or lose your license.
You can still create excellent content that’s HIPAA compliant. In fact, these guidelines were created to fend off bad content. Follow these three steps and your content will be HIPAA compliant:
1. Respect your patient
Don’t share protected health information (PHI) about patients, even if you have their consent.
2. Advise but don’t diagnose
Never diagnose or promise to treat an illness. You can talk about symptoms and treatment, but you should never make it sound like the content is a stand-in for you, the healthcare provider. Always recommend the reader should schedule an appointment at your practice.
3. Source information correctly
Be aware that everything you write will carry the weight of a medical expert. So be clear about what expert sources you are referencing.
How to Create a Content Marketing Strategy for Healthcare
Now that we have definitions and compliance out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff—creating your content marketing strategy. Depending on your expertise and the size of your organization, your strategy will vary, but these seven guidelines are applicable to any content marketing strategy.
1. Focus on your expertise
You don’t need to write about every topic in the healthcare industry. In fact, you will gain authority faster if you constantly speak on one topic, whether it’s cardiology or child psychology.
Be as specific as you can. For example, you may be an ophthalmologist but if you know eye diseases better than anyone else, then write about eyelid twitching or cataracts. The more you establish yourself as an expert on a specific topic, the more you’ll stand out.
Since you are the expert, be sure to stay up-to-date with medical news, especially new studies and breakthroughs in your field. When something big happens within the scope of your business, you want to be the first to report it to your audience. Nothing establishes your authority more than simplifying complicated medical articles and jargon-filled reports.
2. Understand your target audience
Imagine the patients you’ve helped (or want to help). What age group are they? What problems do they have? Why did they choose you over another similar provider?
The answers to these questions point to your target audience.
Your target audience is not the “general public.” Your target audience is a specific group who have symptoms and problems that you can solve. When it comes to content strategy, your goal is to connect to the heart of this audience.
To connect to the heart, learn everything about your audience. Talk with your patients and empathize with their pains. What are their biggest concerns? What keeps them up at night? Then, create content that gives them peace of mind.
You can even ask them what content they prefer. Does reading help them understand their symptoms or watching videos? Do they like content that’s simple or do they want to go more in-depth, with stats and graphs?
Speaking directly to your patients’ problems in a language they understand is the best way to lift your content strategy off the ground.
3. Figure out what kinds of content you’ll create
Once you identify your target audience, it’s time to create content that will reach them. Again, your audience should determine what kinds of content you create. But, in general, most patients will consume the following three.
- Blog Articles: Yes, there is still demand for articles on healthcare and medicine. But if you’re going to write a blog article, make sure it focuses on one idea (or answers one question). Sure, your area of expertise is massive, and it may be tempting to stuff everything you know into a couple articles. This usually results in scattered or unfocused writing. Tighten up your articles with one idea, and you’ll keep readers engaged with consistent, consumable content.
- Videos: Even if you’re not a great videographer, you can tell a compelling story with video content. Think deeply about what your video could be: Don’t be the healthcare provider who puts out another boring, monotonous video. Show us your doctors, your patients, your clerks. Tell us success stories and recoveries. Explain something complicated in a simple and engaging way.
- Social Media: The point of content marketing is to establish trust between you and potential patients. What better way to do that than to connect with them on social media? Not only will this make your patients feel secure, knowing they can reach out to you with questions, but it also allows them to connect with you on a deeper level. They can see you’re more than a healthcare provider: you’re human. And it’s that shared sense of humanity that makes your practice more welcoming.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just these three, especially if your patients prefer multiple forms of content. Here’s a quick list of other pieces of content you could create.
- Email sequences
- Quizzes or symptom assessments
- Case studies
- Trend analyses
4. Create Content That is Simple
This is where you can really stand out. Many healthcare organizations write content like, well, a healthcare provider. In other words, they use stuffy, high-brow medical language that fails to connect emotionally with their patients.
When readers can’t understand what you’re trying to say, they’ll find someone who can explain it better.
So, how can you write simply? We recommend using shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences and shorter words. You should always be reviewing your content from the perspective of a non-expert, which helps you see how accessible your content is. Here are some questions to help you step outside your perspective:
- Have I clearly explained my main points?
- Am I expecting the reader to know more than they do?
- Do I use language that most people understand clearly?
- Have I answered the question or addressed the problem for which the reader came?
5. Avoid self-promotion
Content marketing is not advertising. Mentioning your practice or services over and over will not create trust with your potential patients, nor will it be engaging. Always uphold the golden rule of content marketing: It’s never about you; it’s always about your reader.
As you write your content, ask yourself: what will the reader take away from this? How will it be beneficial for them? Am I being salesy or pushy?
CTAs to book an appointment and call the office are fine, but make sure you aren’t spamming those important asks.
6. Stay Organized with a Content Calendar
When you write a blog article that helps someone, make a video that gives someone peace of mind, or teach someone about a medical condition over a free webinar, you become an influence in their lives. But this influence won’t happen overnight: You must spend months, sometimes years, building it.
This is where most healthcare companies fall off the map. That’s good news for you, because it means you can beat competing healthcare providers simply by continuing to post content.
Most marketing departments post infrequently not because they’re lazy, but because they haven’t created a content calendar, or a schedule of what they’ll publish and when they’ll publish it.
A content calendar helps you find a rhythm that works. You don’t have to post content every day, nor do you have to post every week. You just need to find that sweetspot between what you have time to create and what your audience has time to consume.
7. Learn from your mistakes
Lastly, once you’ve published content and have an audience who loves what you’re creating, don’t neglect reflection. Always ask yourself: What’s working? What’s not working? Are we overlooking any of our patient’s problems?
A great way to keep your content marketing strategy from drying up is to give your patients a chance to leave you a review, which, in turn, gives you a chance to respond. People love when you listen to their feedback, and you’ll gain more trust as you interact with your audience.
Reputation Management Doesn’t Have to be Hard
Now that you know how to use content marketing to grow your practice, it’s time to take a look at the big picture: reputation management. You can’t post articles and monitor reviews on your social media accounts, your blog, your website and other sites and still run your practice.
The good news is that you don’t have to.
At Binary Fountain, we’ve created reputation management software that makes it easy for you to monitor and respond to reviews across all your social media platforms and website listings. You can demo our reputation management software for free here.
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About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist