» Connecting the Power of Writing with the Practice of Medicine

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3 Ways to Share Your Next Quality or Safety Story


When you write about quality and safety, you’re spreading good ideas, actions and programs.

But isn’t talking about safety…boring?

It doesn’t have to be. Take a look at these three hospitals that share quality and safety stories:

Get staff involved. Everyone at your hospital can can agree on the need to provide safe, quality care. You can help affirm this desire by spreading quality and safety knowledge. Take a look at this patient safety video from Newton-Wellesley Hospital. Employees are shown in their area of the hospital holding up paper with their three words for patient safety, to the tune of “The Safety Dance.” These types of videos are a great morale booster for employees because it gives them kudos for doing good work.

Write the story down. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center showcases its “Lessons Learned” stories by clinicians and and non-clinicians. Shared internally, these safety stories are typically about 300 words and feature quotes from staff members who were involved in the story. In addition, the articles are often used by clinicians during meetings and presentations.

Offer training support. New Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement requirements have put the spotlight on quality and safety. Employees are spending more time on quality and safety training, measures and tracking. When you publish a short video, article or blog on these topics, it’s relevant to everyone’s work. This content can also make employees’ efforts easier by providing material they can share in training and meetings. MedStar Health does videos called “60 Seconds for Safety.” For a recent video, MedStar enrolled their Patient and Family Advisory Council for advice on how to engage patients to help prevent medical errors. While these videos most likely started as an internal project, they’re now featured on MedStar’s website.

What is your hospital doing to promote safety and quality?

Posted by Sarah Hawkins

The Three R’s of Physician Interviews


To create great content in the healthcare world, you need expert input. Often, that’s going to be from a physician.

Interviewing a doctor can be intimidating. After all, physicians are busy, highly trained experts that have better things to do than talking to you — like, for instance, saving lives.

Here are three R’s to be more confident and get the most out of a physician interview.


Use the precious time you have with a physician to get the information you can’t get anywhere else. Research the topic ahead of time and quickly confirm your understanding during the interview. That way, you can focus primarily on what’s different and unique about your expert’s approach. You can also help your interviewee be prepared by sending your questions — or even a rough draft — in advance. That helps crystalize the goal of the interview and keeps you both on track.


Thank the doctor for taking time to talk to you and confirm that it’s still a convenient time. Willingly reschedule if a patient needs the doctor more urgently. But respect yourself and your work, also. You need to take charge and direct the conversation so that you can accomplish what is needed.


Remember, doctors are people, too. Connect on a human level, reveal a little about yourself and don’t be afraid to express wonder and enthusiasm about their expertise and work. “Wow, really?” Your genuine interest can bring out the best insights and help your content come to life.

Posted by Karla Webb

5 Creative Ways to Talk to Your Patients


Patients don’t want you to speak to them.

They want a conversation.

For your hospital marketing efforts to be effective, your job is to get people to change their behavior. You want them to sign up for a seminar. Schedule an appointment. Take a class to learn more.

The only way you can do that is if you talk directly to your patients. Here are a few examples of hospitals that actively reach patients where they are looking.

Chatting about Ebola

There’s so much misinformation, fear and confusion about Ebola. People want to find the right information, but they don’t know where to turn. This month, Baylor Scott and & White partnered up with other local officials to lead a community discussion. This event isn’t about the hospital’s services at all—that’s not the point. The point is, Baylor Scott and & White is showing up as a trusted member of the community. If a person listening to this discussion feels like they can trust the hospital, he or she might be more likely to make an appointment at Baylor Scott & White when a health concern pops up.

Ditch the press conference

Highlighted at Ragan’s 6th Annual Health Care Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic, Spectrum Health did a G+ Hangout with a bone marrow transplant. About 600 people saw the Hangout, after it aired. Spectrum Health was able to reach people who may be curious to learn about its bone marrow transplant program. What makes this stand out is that it was a real conversation—between the hospital communicators, patients and doctors.

Test time

A test or quiz is another great way to change or shape behavior in patients. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center illustrated how a quiz about memory loss can gain national media attention. In fact, so many people downloaded this quiz—OSU’s website crashed. What makes the quiz interesting was that it wasn’t just static copy. It wasn’t a doctor talking about the dangers of memory loss. Instead, it gave people a chance to take the test and make an appointment to discuss the results.

Start a tweet chat

Patients are on Twitter, too. During seasonal tweet chats, Hasbro Children’s Hospital picks out a topic and people get the chance to ask hospital experts questions about it. Sometimes, it’s important not to push a message, but just listen to what questions or concerns your audience has—and then answer their questions.

Write better website content

You’ve heard that a hospital website is the new front door of your hospital. But people are going to slam it in your face if it’s littered with words like, “state-of-the-art,” “multidisciplinary” and “quality care.” Nobody really goes to a hospital website to browse around. They go to your website because they have a question, concern or looking for more information. Your goal should be to give them readable, useful information that they can talk to their doctor about after they make an appointment with your online scheduler (hint, hint).


Posted by Jessica Levco

7 key tweets from #mayoragan

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When I was at Ragan’s 6th Annual Health Care Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic, somebody asked me if I was going to blog about it.

But since the conference hashtag—#mayoragan—was trending on Twitter (on both days), it seemed more fitting that I should spend my time in Hootsuite, not Word.

Here are a few of my favorite tweets from the conference. And in effort to maintain some journalistic credibility, I added a few more sentences to each one.

@RyanMadanickMD At first, docs don’t have to tweet—but they can read tweets.

During his keynote session, Dr. Ryan Madanick, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, explained how hospital communicators could encourage doctors to join social media. For doctors, Twitter can seem overwhelming and confusing. That’s why in the beginning; he suggests that listening to what everybody else says matters most. Encourage doctors to check out some tweet chats. @RyanMadanickMD is the moderator for #meded.

A video can reduce patient anxiety about a procedure, but so can a G+ Hangout!

Spectrum Health System communicators used a Google+ Hangout to do a live press conference about its new adult bone marrow transplant program. Not only was this a new way to spread the word about its program, but it’s something that future participants can use as a learning tool, too. Pro tip: If you’re doing a G+ Hangout, remember to practice the script with everybody at least once to test for audio and Internet connectivity.

Journalists want to feel like “owners” of the story, even if you give it to them.

Lisa Arledge Powell of MediaSource explained how The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center pushes its stories out to the media. But let’s face: nobody likes to be told what to do (even if they are overworked and underpaid journalists). That’s why the hospital offers a newsroom, just for reporters who are looking for experts to interview or b-roll footage to run. Hospital communicators can still “control” the message, but journalists can re-package the story on their own.

“If you engage docs on Twitter, they’ll engage with you,” @chimoose

More than 5,000 doctors post daily on their blogs and Twitter accounts. Greg Matthews, the creator of MDigital Life, talked about how important it is for hospital communicators to start following their doctors on Twitter. Why? If you follow your doctors, your amount of Twitter followers will increase.

The most popular Pinterest board for @PiedmontHealth? The doctors!

Piedmont Health has a robust Pinterest account. What surprised the audience the most was that the doctor board was most popular. You’ve probably written a lot of physician biographies and videos—and Piedmont proves Pinterest to be a great way to re-purpose this type content.

Should patients “friend” docs on FB? Depends on your hospital’s appetite for risk.

To friend or not to friend? Whatever you decide, figure out what policy decision works best for your hospital. Maybe you tell all doctors upfront, “Don’t friend any of your patients.” Or perhaps you take the approach of telling your doctors to use their best judgment—and privacy settings.

@LeeAase: Even with #sm, there’s no substitute for F2F.

When you’re actively tweeting at #mayoragan, you spend a lot of time glued to the hashtag. But the best moments of the conference tend to be when you look up from your computer and talk to the person sitting next to you. And who knows? By the end of the night, you might’ve found a new karaoke partner.

Posted by Jessica Levco

Four Tweets We Adore


When I first started tweeting back in 2008, the first thing I said was, “I just ate an apple.”


I’ve come a long way since then. When I first started Twitter, I had no idea what I was doing. I answered the “What are you doing?” question literally. Plus, did anybody care? At that point, I only had six followers: two co-workers, a college roommate and three spammers.

One thing that helped me figure out how to tweet was to see what everybody else was saying.

If your hospital is looking for inspiration for your next tweet, take a look at some of these examples:

Did you know that WriterGirl can manage all your social media accounts? Click here to find out more.

Posted by Jessica Levco

How to Work from Home and be Healthy



When I accepted a position to work at WriterGirl & Associates, I found out that I would be working from home five days a week.

I wanted to become the Jillian Michaels of my home office.

I’ll buy a walking treadmill! A standing desk! An exercise bike! Maybe I’ll get one of those big red balls and sit on it!

And then reality struck: Working is hard enough. Why buy some piece of expensive equipment that could make it more difficult?

Over the past few months, I’ve experimented with some low-cost ways to work from home and squeeze in a little workout, too.

If you’re working from home, here are a few ideas to try:

Fitbit When working in an office, you know when it’s 5 o’clock. People start to leave. But when you’re working from home, there’s no clear signal that the workday is over. What’s helped me adjust to the end of the day is setting a timer on my phone that says, “Walk!” And then, my Fitbit and I go outside and log some steps. If you don’t have a Fitbit, you can download an app on your phone that tracks your steps.

Pumping iron I have two five-pound weights by my desk. I’ll take a one-minute break and lift them. Gotta keep those finger muscles strong. If you’re more ambitious than I am, you can do some squats while your coffee is brewing.

Take a lunch It was a transition to go from having an office full of co-workers to flying solo. After too many days of staying home and talking to my pots and pans, that’s when I started actively finding friends who also worked from home. Part of being healthy isn’t all about the body—feeling isolated can lead to depression, or in my case, becoming slightly delusional. Just ask my wok.

Grow a garden Every morning, I go outside and water my condo association’s hastas in the front yard. Just the simple act of going outside is a great way to get some fresh air and maybe, some fresh ideas.

Trash your junk food When you’re stressed on a deadline, it’s easier to scarf down a bag of Cheetos when nobody is watching. And then to reward yourself for meeting the deadline, a little (just a little) bowl of ice cream…but this adds up, fast. Make things easier on yourself and fill your kitchen with plenty of fruit, yogurt and nuts for when the deadlines roll around.

Save your back As I grow older, I want to complain about interesting things. I don’t want to complain about my back. That’s why I invested in a comfortable chair. Oh, sure, I guess I could be sitting on a ball—but it’s best to just leave some things to Jillian Michaels.

Posted by Jessica Levco

Six Simple Ways Newbies Can Use Social Media


I dream in tweets.

Each month, I write 200 tweets and Facebook posts for one of our hospital clients.

If your hospital is just getting started on social media, here are a few things I’ve learned:

Don’t say anything yet. I’m an advocate of seeing what everybody else is saying first. Jump on some Twitter chats. Follow some health-related hashtags (#hcsm or #hckmtg). Take a look at what your competition is saying. By just listening, you’ll get a better sense of what to say.

Your tweets should match your brand’s personality. Let’s say you’re sharing a blog post about substance abuse and you work at a conservative hospital. You probably don’t want to tweet, “Is Uncle Joe a meth addict?” (Although…I think you’d get a lot of clicks on that.)

Write something people want to read. Newsflash: Nobody is obligated to read anything you say. You have to write something that makes them stop what they are doing and say, “Wow! I have to read this right now!”

Define what engagement means to you. You can’t just be on social media “to be on social media.” What are you measuring? What do you want to accomplish? How will you prove it’s worth it? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you might not be ready to take the plunge.

Get a social media monitoring or scheduling tool. If you’re going to be posting a lot, you might want to invest in a tool, such as Hootsuite or Spredfast. Not only does this let you pre-schedule tweets and posts, but you can also measure analytics pretty easily from both of these platforms.

Hire someone else to do this for you. Does this seem like a lot of work? Well, it is. That’s why we’re here. Send us an email if you’re interested in learning more about how we work with hospitals on social media.


Posted by Jessica Levco

Three Ways to Motivate Employees to Be Healthful


As the CEO of WriterGirl, I work to create an environment that fosters creativity, kindness and engagement. And wellness is a key part of that.

I believe that happy, healthy employees contribute directly to your bottom line, and apparently I’m not alone. Not only is there data to support this belief, but there’s even a book about it.

WriterGirl is a small business, so our approach to wellness might be a bit different than a larger organization. But the intention is the same: Provide a healthy work environment by providing opportunities to be healthy.

Besides offering healthcare, there are other tangible ways to demonstrate that your employees’ wellness is important to the organization.

Walk away from your desk

Every employee at WriterGirl has a FitBit (even Tory Burch is offering accessories!). We’ll be adding some internal competitions and programs to encourage everyone to not only use them, but also to up their activity level. Your employees will be better off if they’re not sitting around at their desks all day.


Several Fortune 500 companies encourage employees to practice meditation and mindfulness. Why? It’s been shown that meditation increases focus, efficiency, inner peace and improved health.

If you’re a beginner, Headspace is a fantastic app that offers a free 10-day membership. For that, you get 10 days of 10-minute meditations that teach those new to meditation how to do it and how to start a practice. In addition, Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra do several free 21-day meditation series a year.

Take five

Even if you’re reluctant to endorse meditation, encouraging your employees to simply take five minutes in the morning to sit quietly will create the same results. Provide encouragement to employees to slow down and give their minds a chance to be quiet. According to Scientific American, research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity. And these are all things that contribute directly to your bottom line.

What does your organization do to encourage wellness in their employees? We’d love to hear from you.

Christy Pretzinger is the CEO of WriterGirl. 


Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

Four Tips for Managing Your Hospital’s Website Content


Managing your hospital’s website is a big task. But if you break it up until little pieces, it’s a lot easier to get your mind wrapped around it.

For starters, in order to manage your hospital’s content, you have to communicate with stakeholders in various departments, service lines, and within the communications and marketing departments.

You know best how your organization works, and so it falls to you to develop a way of managing your content to keep it fresh and interesting.

Here’s how you can get it done:

  1. Work within the marketing department to establish a process for content creation. Then, share that process with content stakeholders across the organization. Remember that processes can be modified. Be prepared to do so when needed.
  2. Establish a timeline for publishing content and share this timeline throughout the organization. This process works best when there is some “weight” behind it. If higher-ups are committed to the timeline, you can hold content stakeholders to the timeline—or push the publication of their content back, if necessary.
  3. Create a process for managing content updates. Determine who within each area is the contact for content updates and have a schedule for publishing updates. This schedule will need to be somewhat flexible to allow for unforeseen changes, so you might want to create a date range for updates. You’ll also need to have someone in the marketing department dedicated to this process that can check with content creators on timelines and manage versions of content. It’s best to develop the process as you go. That way, you’ll see what works, what doesn’t and then incorporate those details into the process.
  4. Remove stale, outdated content and content that doesn’t get any page views. Just like the other steps, this starts with a timeline or schedule. Plan on having content stakeholders review the content for their areas at least once a year. It’s a good idea to develop a checklist for this review process. The stakeholder can use it to review aspects of the content (such as page views and accuracy) and then can submit that checklist to the marketing department. This way, you can verify that the content is still fresh and the stakeholder actually reviewed the content.

We know that managing your hospital’s website can be overwhelming. We’re here to help. Contact us to learn more.

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

Quality Rankings Won’t Make Your Hospital Shine



Newsflash: Quality is not a differentiator in healthcare.

Your patients expect your hospital to offer the highest quality in patient care, safety and cleanliness.

Awards saying that you have those things don’t matter to them.


They thought you already did.

When I read Seth Godin’s blog post, Misunderstanding Quality, I immediately thought how appropriate it is for hospital communicators. Even though he’s talking about Kodak and Polaroid, the underlying theme of misunderstanding what people want applies to our industry.

As we move from “heads in beds” to population management, and patients are forced to think about healthcare decisions (rather than simply going where their doctor tells them to), understanding what quality means to your population becomes an increasingly important part of the conversation.

So, what do your patients care about? Here are a few examples of what we think makes a hospital stand out:

Swapping recipes. Baylor Health Care System has shared more than 200 recipes with followers on Pinterest. This is a great way to show followers that you care about their health.

Virtual tours. Going to a hospital can be intimidating. Sharing a virtual tour of your campus like Cleveland Clinic can help patients feel more familiar.

Brand journalism. Advocate Health Care defines what brand journalism is really all about: Providing health news your patients can use. Its website is updated with infographics, snappy blog posts and health tips.


Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO