You get a rash, and you look online for pictures to self-diagnose. Your child has a fever and a cough, and you look at an online symptom checker to decide if you need to visit a clinic. Your husband is urinating more frequently than normal at night, and you search the Internet to figure out the cause. The Internet has replaced Dr. Spock’s iconic parenting book – second only to the Bible in sales for 50 years – and every other traditional health information source in the home. Consumers have limitless sources at their fingertips once they hit return in a search bar. Why not make your hospital or clinic the one they bookmark and rely upon?
Of course that means providing information about the “big diseases and conditions” your specialists treat – things that differentiate you from competitors. Chances are good that your organization already has this on your website. But it also means providing information about health and wellness and “the little” things patients face – things that may not bring patients through your door.
Your clinic or hospital shouldn’t expect immediate gains from being patients’ go-to source for health and wellness information. Over time, you stand to gain loyalty and trust. It’s likely that people who come to depend on you for regular advice and guidance online will turn to you when they have a need that requires medical attention. (It’s important to have a well-constructed website that makes easy, obvious connections between health information and treatment resources.)
You can promote your brand website’s health and wellness offerings in myriad ways including through social media, by inviting patients to register in a personal health portal and sign up for alerts about various topics, on phone waiting messages, through nurse help lines and during face-to-face visits with providers.
Let’s say a 50-year-old patient sees a provider for an annual exam and asks about menopause symptoms. The provider has the opportunity, while the patient is in the exam room, to pull up information about menopause on a computer or iPad, talk through the information together and offer to print it for the patient or write down the site address for her. This is a chance to show your brand’s Web presence to the patient and help imprint it as a source of information. Then, when the patient is at home and her 21-year-old son mentions he might have allergies, the patient is more likely to visit your website to check symptoms and possible over-the-counter remedies.
If your hospital or clinic has procrastinated about adding health and wellness information to your website – self-care advice, healthy recipes, exercise tips, condition-specific blogs and so much more – delay no longer. It’s what patients expect, and they’ll get it somewhere else if you don’t offer it. Don’t let your competition beat you to the punch.
Posted by Melissa Abrams, WriterGirl Associate
The right leaders. The right team. The right plays. Every time.
Every day is game day at WriterGirl. It’s second nature for our team to take the ball and run with it. And we score.
We don’t win because we have a single great quarterback. Or running back. Or linesman (or lineswoman). We win because we have champs at every position. And our roster is deep. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the WriterGirl team succeeds.
The call comes in to the team’s owner, Christy Schlake (WriterGirl Chief Executive Officer). A “game” is scheduled for the following Sunday. The deadline is tight. The clock starts ticking.
Schlake calls the team’s coaches, Reba Thompson (WriterGirl Director of Business Development) and Colleen Massa (WriterGirl Director of Operations). Put together our best team to win this game.
Coach Thompson puts together a game plan, setting goals and establishing plays. She hands off the plan to Coach Massa, who analyzes the situation. What will it take to win this game? Who are the best players to put on the field?
Massa picks a quarterback. Karla Webb (WriterGirl Operations Manager) will manage the “game” and call the plays. She has the leadership instincts to lead her team members to victory.
Massa reviews her player roster and picks the running back best suited to take the ball and cruise with it ¾ the one most experienced to play in this stadium, on this turf, in this climate. Who has the skills needed to score big in this particular game?
For this “game,” Melissa Abrams (WriterGirl writer) fits the bill. She’s a veteran but fast on her feet. She can weave her way through defenders and anticipate the moves needed to reach the goal. Her running game and ability to score are legendary.
She can’t do it on her own. She’s in constant contact with Webb, her quarterback. They read each other’s signals.
Massa calls Laura DiGiulio (WriterGirl Operations Manager) onto the field. DiGiulio maintains the team’s position ¾ following the rules to avoid penalty flags.
The team hits the field and works like a well-oiled machine. Schlake to Thompson to Massa to Webb to Abrams to DiGiulio. A true Super Bowl lineup. A victory. Another client doing “the wave” in the stands.
Posted by Melissa Abrams, WriterGirl Associate
As a content expert for WriterGirl and healthcare editor for Ragan Communications, I spend a lot of time on Twitter. Here are a few people that have changed the way I think about healthcare marketing:
His name equals ROI. Boyer is the AVP of digital strategy for Northshore/LIJ Health System in New York and his goal for hospital communicators is this: prove what you’re doing is actually working. When you follow Boyer, you’ll pick up some great links about how to measure, what to measure and why you should keep doing it.
Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson
It’s a tough call: do I enjoy her blog or Twitter feed more? Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (“Seattle Mama Doc”) made a name for herself in the hospital marketing realm because she’s always herself. She’s not tweeting about best hospital marketing practices, but the fact that she’s online is a best marketing practice. Her feed is something you can share with doctors who are skeptical about social media.
Here’s a man who needs no introduction. But just in case you’re new to the healthcare space, Aase is the director of Mayo Clinic’s Center for Social Media. He’s not just tweeting about cool stuff going on at Mayo Clinic, though. He’s a leader in #hcsm and always gives shout-outs to his fans and followers at other hospitals.
Fox calls herself an “Internet geologist.” And that’s exactly what she is. As a thought-leader at Pew Research, she keeps tabs on the latest news in healthcare social media and shares it with everyone. Insider tip from Fox: mobile.
She’s the woman who started it all—she’s the founder of the #hcsm Twitter chats on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. CT. Now, she’s a social media strategist at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Lewis is an #hcsm junkie and is helpful to any newbie getting started in the health social media space.
Posted by Jessica Levco, WG Associate
During this time of reform, healthcare organizations, like yours, are working to transform and shift from a first curve to second curve healthcare delivery system. As this transformation happens, it’s important for your marketing department to begin to strategically plan for future improvements and progress within your realm of responsibilities and expertise. One significant piece to this puzzle is capitalizing on content initiatives by ensuring you are giving examples to illustrate your points to your audience. It’s great and wonderful that you are ranked by U.S. News & World Report, but show us why. That is what is relevant to the prospective patient. Tell stories, share statistics, use video, give healthy tips, etc. There are many other industry trends and best practices for key content initiatives for the 2014 fiscal year that encourage the move toward achieving curve two metrics:
Social Media – Social media continues to be a relevant and valuable channel for marketing and communicating, and to that end, WriterGirl recommends continuing and even increasing your current efforts.
Find-a-Doc Physician Bios – It is crucial that your physicians are visible, accessible and connected with the community as consumers have more decision-making power over their healthcare needs. One way to bring this to life is through unconventional physician bios. Credentials and publications are certainly important, but striking an emotional connection is even more critical. Including information such as the physician’s care philosophy, their reason for entering into medicine, their weekend hobbies and interesting news about their families allows potential patients to engage with the human side of the physician at the moment of decision making. Effective physician bios can be a tipping point.
Brand Journalism Website – Much like the Health Hub from Cleveland Clinic, a recent industry trend is to use news-like content to build brand loyalty, discuss hot topics and share relevant wellness and preventive health information. These websites use your assets (hospitals, services, people, research, technologies) to tell real stories and give factual information (news with your spin) rather than marketing. This is a valuable addition to any organization’s digital suite.
Physician Website – We all know how critical physician alignment is within healthcare reform. Fresh content on your physician website is beneficial to this group’s digital asset in numerous ways:
- Attracting and recruiting top physician talent
- Increasing and strengthening your referral network
- Expanding visibility of your physicians to patients
- Highlighting the uniqueness of your key organizational commitments and philosophies
Posted by Reba Thompson, Director of Business Development
As hospital marketers, we often think that the most important content on our website is about US… how great our services are, all the awards we’ve won, why we’re the best at everything. (I know that’s a bit of hyperbole, but anyone who’s ever worked with a world-renown physician knows that’s sometimes all you get: “I’m the best at this.”)
While differentiating content about your services and physicians is vital, it’s not the most frequently visited content on your website. Let’s take a look at what is.
While you may not be surprised to learn that the most frequently visited pages are those with location information – including phone numbers, addresses and parking information – now you need to consider HOW your users are finding that information on your website. Recent statistics show that mobile usage has increased by at least 70 percent over the past three years. So what does that mean for you?
Your website needs to be mobile friendly, whether you have a mobile-first strategy in place (or in planning) or are using responsive design. No matter your approach, if you want to create a good user experience, you need to make sure that maps and directions are fewer than three clicks away on a mobile device, enabling users to quickly navigate to the hospital campus while en route.
Writing for mobile is different than writing for the web. While there are numerous resources available online to help you get started (this is a good one), it also helps to have a partner with expertise in writing for mobile. And as you might expect, WriterGirl excels at this.
Find a Doctor
Whether a patient is seeking a new doctor, or simply trying to locate their current doctor, your Find a Doctor information is key to driving revenue. As with location information, your Find a Doctor information needs to be easily accessible from a mobile device. Since this information should be housed on a database, proper programming is key to a good user experience. In addition, physician contact information – especially telephone numbers – needs to be handled in a mobile-friendly manner so users can simply click the number and call.
Consistent physician bios are a part of any good Find a Doctor information. While creating those consistent bios can be a daunting task, once you get it done the first time, it becomes a matter of updating it with new physicians and new information.
Forms/ What to Bring
Most organizations encourage their patients to save time by completing forms prior to an appointment or hospital procedure. Since most patients will visit this section of your site when directed to do so, it’s important that it be user-friendly and easy to navigate. (This is one place where – as of this writing – a mobile strategy takes a back seat.)
While the goal of this page is to get patients to complete forms in advance, it also offers an opportunity to promote other services in which your patients may have interest. This page should include general information on what to bring for a hospital stay and what to expect upon arrival, as well as general information about outpatient procedures. Since patients will arrive at this page in order to complete a variety of forms for numerous office and hospital visits, the information should be general, but can point patients towards more specific information via helpful links.
Your website consists of dozens, if not hundreds, of pages of content, all of which is relevant to some part of your audience. So while these three areas are vital to most of your users, they’re only a small part of a much larger content strategy.
Posted by Christy Schlake, President & CEO
Your digital presence, or the way that your organization is represented online, is already bigger than you think. But it might not be the presence you were hoping for. Mobile devices give patients and caregivers unlimited access to online resources such as rating sites that often take the place of word-of-mouth referrals. Ratings can be overwhelmingly good, or can teeter on the side of terrible.
Take Healthgrades, for example. Healthgrades is an online rating site that allows consumers, physicians, and hospitals to find out information about each other. Patients can log on and take a survey to rate physicians and hospitals on service aspects like ease of scheduling appointments, total wait times and friendliness of staff. Physicians and hospitals can update information on the Healthgrades site to have more control over their profiles. But do they?
The truth is, many organizations are just awakening to the impact of these rating sites. If your rating site profile has incorrect information or someone gives you a bad rating, your organization could be negatively impacted. Broadening your marketing focus to include monitoring rating site reputation will help ensure positive feedback.
What to do? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Update your organization’s information on Google Places
- Make sure any local listings for your organization showcase the services you provide and any other information you want to share
- Research review sites and ensure all of your information is updated and correct
- Respond to negative patient reviews
- Create your own online community
- Ask your patients to share their exceptional experiences with you online
According to the Pew Internet survey The Social Life of Health Information, “as broadband and mobile access spreads, more people have the ability – and increasingly, the habit – of sharing what they are doing and thinking. In healthcare, this translates to people tracking their workout routines, posting reviews of their medical treatments and raising awareness about certain health conditions.”
Information is power. Own yours.
Written by WriterGirl & Associates
Posted by Reba Thompson, Director of Business Development
Let’s face it: hospital websites blur together. They all offer the same stuff.
What makes a hospital stand-out isn’t the pretty design or easy navigation. What keeps me going back to a hospital website is meaningful content. Here are three that offer the patient something different:
Going to a hospital for the first time can be downright scary. That’s why Cleveland Clinic decided to offer virtual tours of all its major buildings. You can zoom-in and zoom-out of the pictures and take a 360 view of what each place offers. By the time a patient gets to Cleveland Clinic, they’ll know what to expect.
Advocate Health Care
Advocate Health Care became its own news source. Partnering with Ragan Communications, the team created healthenews, a website that defines “brand journalism.” The website is centered on wellness news and tips for patients. It doesn’t churn out press releases for journalists. Instead, they give journalists what they want: stories that they can actually use. In fact, this one has been picked up by CNN.
Boston Children’s Hospital
Thriving is a blog that is all about the families that come to the hospital. The stories here can make you laugh or cry, depending on the entry. What makes this a robust blog is that it isn’t just written by healthcare communicators. There’s a variety of voices: doctors, patients and parents who all contribute. When you read it, you don’t feel like you’re being “marketed” to. You just feel like you’re reading great stories.
Posted by Jessica Levco, WG Associate
Every year in September, WriterGirl attends The Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference. The Society, known affectionately as SHSMD (pronounced, “shush-med”), is a resource and networking organization for healthcare professionals. Its affiliation with the American Hospital Association credentials the Society as one of the leading resources for those brave many who make healthcare their business.
Although WriterGirl attends the conference as an exhibitor, we do have the opportunity to sit in on many of the presentations. One General Session stands out in all of our minds:
Blue Zones: Communities that Live Longer, Healthier and Happier
As healthcare reform pushes the industry to move away from a reactive “sick care” model toward a proactive “preventive care” model, new ways of thinking about “health” care are emerging. Enter Dan Buettner, a man whose Twitter account (@BlueZones) proclaims him a “New York Times bestselling author, bicycling world record holder and National Geographic Fellow.”
As we conference attendees munched on quiche and an assortment of pastries, Dan opened the floor to his presentation with a health questionnaire of sorts. Via show of hands, we responded to requests such as “raise your hand if you eat at least three vegetables a day” and “raise your hand if you attend church or some other faith-based community at least four times a month.” One question in particular got a little personal, but we all laughed about it and hesitantly raised our hands … or didn’t. Regardless, we were all intrigued. What did vegetables and yoga have to do with blue zones? And what are blue zones anyway?
The Blue Zones® and the Power9®
Dan and his team of researchers have identified five areas of the world where people not only live longer, but also enjoy health and vitality throughout the continuum of their lives. Dan has coined the areas in which these groups of people live as “The Blue Zones.” Even more compelling, individuals living in the Blue Zones share nine common behaviors. Coined the Power9®, these behaviors include such things as “Move Naturally” and “Wine @ 5.” Can I get a whoop whoop?!
After studying these groups of people (believe it or not, one group actually lives in the United States), Dan and his team took their research a step further. Through an inspiring initiative, they are engaging and encouraging U.S. cities to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice in their community. The pilot program started in Albert Lea, Minnesota in 2009 with much success.
Of course, there’s so much more to it than this brief synopsis, but you’re welcome to visit Blue Zones® and learn more. I did as soon as I got home from the conference.
The Windy City of Chicago was an apt setting for the conference, given its concurrence with the government shutdown. Despite the political turmoil brewing in the background, the SHSMD community shined with this year’s theme: Connections.
Dan Buettner inspires healthy connections by championing his Blue Zones initiatives. As our healthcare clients face the challenging prospect of rebranding their systems, it will be more and more important for us at WriterGirl to be aware of iconoclasts such as Dan Buettner, who is changing the way we all think about “health” care.
Posted by Kris Martin, Vice President of Operations
The best way to think about marketing your doctors to your community is to think about what you would want as a patient. And what patients want is simple – they want help. When you’re marketing your doctors, ask yourself if the content you’re providing is helping your patients.
Here are some ways your marketing efforts can help your community, your doctors and you:
- Back-to-school vaccines and flu shots are here. Have you thought about a YouTube video featuring your doctor talking about why parents need to immunize their children?
- Do your doctors see patients with the same or similar conditions (diabetes, obesity, depression)? Many doctors engage in community-wide health groups to educate about prevention and wellness around specific conditions.
- It’s 2013. Now is the time to get your doctor online with unconventional physician bios. These days, it’s so important for your physicians to be visible, accessible and connected. Credentials and publications are definitely a must, but striking an emotional connection brings even more value to your patients and community. Including information such as the physician’s care philosophy, their reason for entering into medicine, their weekend hobbies and interesting news about their families allows potential patients to engage with the human side of the physician at the moment of decision-making. Effective physician bios can be a tipping point.
- Is your doctor speaking publicly about the Affordable Health Care Act? As October comes around, reporters will be looking for doctors to give them quotes. Let the media know your doctors are available to chat.
Posted by Jessica Levco, WG Associate
Guest Post: Today’s Post is provided by Carmen Krupar, President, Cybervise
Google+ is not just another social network. It is the only social network that is directly tied into your ability to rank higher in search results. If you are serious about working on Search Engine Optimization this year, Google+ is a requirement. Since this is a social indicator, this isn’t something you can totally do alone. Getting your team involved in Google+ will help give a boost to your SEO efforts and the resulting website traffic will make the resource investment worth it.
Here is how Google+ is influencing your website’s search performance:
- Links posted to Google+ are instantly indexed by Google. So instead of having to wait for Google to find the content on your website, Google+ gives you the opportunity to get listed right away.
- Part of the Google formula in use in 2013 is “Social Signals”. Things like +1’s, Likes, Retweets and Pins are done by real people. Google pays attention to what people are sharing and using that to score your content. All reports from Google and other search engines is that Social Signals will only increase in importance in the years to come. You can assume since Google+ is part of Google, those +1s get the most attention.
- You may have noticed that Google has reformatted their pages of search results so content that has been “+1” by your circles or by you or has a lot of +1s gets bumped to the top.
Using Your Team to Help Your SEO Efforts
There is an opportunity here for your company to use all of your team’s online resources to influence Search results and drive more traffic to your company website as a result of increased search performance. Here is what you need to do:
- Prepare your website – You need to make your content easy to +1 and make sure you get credit for the +1 too. First, you need a +1 button on the webpage you want shared. Second, you need to connect your Google+ page to your website or “Validate” your website with Google+. Here is a great YouTube video to talk you through the technical part.
- Get everyone on Google+ – Anyone who has a gmail account, automatically has a Google+ page. It has been reported that Google gives more credibility to profile pages that are complete. Here is a post you can share to help people complete their profile. Any gmail account will work, it does not have to be related to a company email address. Suggest adding the company website to their list of links, but there is no permanent link to an employee’s personal page and the company page or website.
- Follow your company Google+ page – Suggest that everyone goes to the Company Google+ page and follows or +1’s the page. This will put the company posts in the feed on their personal page and make the content easy to follow. To help people get there, send them to the badge you setup on your website. (See step 1).
- Post Content to Google+ – To make website content easy to share, you will want to create updates on your company Google+ page and link them to the content on your website. If you want to train your team to help out on a regular basis, it will be crucial to regularly post to Google+ so new content is always available. For example, you may only have time for new content once per week, that’s fine, just make sure that if you tell your team it will be posted by Noon on Monday, keep to the schedule.
- Ask your Team to +1 content – To get the boost that you are looking for, you need your team members to +1 your website content. They can either use the +1 button on your website pages or blog posts or go directly to the company Google+ page and use the +1 on your posts.
If you have members of your team that are responsible for sales, I personally believe they should be the number one spreaders of website content in your company. Especially, if they are tasked with following-up on leads from the website. Their job performance and commissions directly benefit from increased website traffic generated by better search performance.
So what if you have a small budget and don’t have an internal team to help?
Think about ways you can encourage customers to use those +1’s. I see a lot of customers really concerned about the number of “likes” they are collecting, but Facebook likes don’t have the power to instantly change your search performance. Consider using some of the offers you have used for Likes for +1′s instead.
Posted by Carmen Krupar