» Connecting the Power of Writing with the Practice of Medicine

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The pin is mightier than…


So many networks, so little time!

Choosing the right social networks to reach your audience is a big decision. But here are two stats to make a decision about joining Pinterest a little easier:


So, what can your hospital do with a Pinterest account? Here are a few examples from our clients:

Aurora Health Care: It uses eight boards to share healthy living tips, great recipes and info on some of their key service lines, such as heart health and cancer. Each pin kept with the same theme: “dedicated to keeping you happy, healthy and loving life.” Awesome.

Houston Methodist: These 48 boards range from brain or prostate cancer; patient and staff highlights; and healthy snacks. With nearly 5,000 pins, Houston Methodist has been able to build a solid following.

Broward Health: This Florida hospital has more than 30 boards and focuses on creating recipes for all different types of eaters: kids, diabetics, snackers and grill masters. We also liked how it made an effort to appeal to moms by sharing boards on hospital crafts, newborns and parenting tips.

Don’t overlook all those little virtual cork boards for building brand awareness with a wider audience and a loyal following. Your options in Pinterest are only as limited as your creativity. It’s easy to tie some pins into your overall editorial calendar and strategic priorities.

Happy pinning!

Posted by Nancy Jean

Patient Portal: If You Build It, Patients Will Come


Online patient portals are all the buzz these days — and for good reason. They can provide a variety of benefits and services to your staff and your patients, in a digital format that’s familiar to more and more patient demographics. And what’s even better, patients are interested in using online patient portals:

Benefits of Patient Portals

Need to convince your C-suite into a letting you build a patient portal? Here are some of the benefits to tout:

Communicate more effectively: Both doctors and patients can see all history and information at a single glance, allowing them to quickly spot trends and pinpoint problems.

Reduce phone call volume: Patients can book appointments on the portal, freeing up office staff to attend to patients who are in the office for their appointments.

Request prescription refills: The ability to refill prescriptions online can also reduce in-office patient wait time since prescriptions can be refilled outside of the office visit.

Share records with specialists: Portals provide the physician with the ability to securely and easily share complete or selected medical records with a specialist who needs to collaborate in the patient’s care.

Attracting Users to Your Portal

At the same time, simply establishing a patient portal at your facility isn’t enough to drive real, sustainable engagement of your patients and providers.

Ensure that you’ve developed (and received buy-in) on a plan of spreading the word about your portal to patients, physicians, nurses and staff members. A widespread marketing campaign can help everyone understand the benefits of the portal.

In addition, speak with the representative from your portal software provider for tips on the best ways that various members of your staff can most effectively and appropriately share information about the features and benefits of your portal. You’ll want to make sure you spread the gospel of your online portal to patients of all ages and demographics.

Posted by Danielle Quales

5 things you need to do if you’re working from home


Since I’ve been working from home, I’ve been reading a lot of those “must-have” lists you need for a home office. You know the drill: a reliable Internet connection, a headset, a comfy chair. Blah, blah, blah.

Sure, all that stuff is important, but I’ve found it’s the little things that can make a big difference to making working from home an even more pleasant experience.

Get physical: Working from home gives you so many different workout options. You can take a quick stroll around your neighborhood at lunch, do some crunches when you’ve got writer’s block or take your phone calls standing up. But did you know that a lot of gyms offer discounts if you sign up during non-peak membership hours? Plus, if you sign up for a class in the afternoon, odds are that it won’t be that crowded.

Start a lunch rotation: Network with people in your community or see if you can round up some friends who are working from home. At the very least, see if your friends who do have a 9-5 want to sneak out for a sandwich. Try to set up a lunch date once a week.

Get a cookbook: When you’ve maxed out your credit card on lunch, now is the time to start experimenting with some new recipes. Now that you have all day to cook something, you won’t feel rushed. Just don’t start talking to your pots and pans (that might be a sign that you need to start eating with people again).

Buy yourself a gift card to your favorite coffee shop: It can be tempting to sit inside all day, hunker down and get your work done. But if you know that you’ve already invested $25 on a gift card, you’ll be more likely to go out there and use it.

Membership to Headspace: Sometimes, you just need to say, “ommm.” This meditation app helps you quiet your inner editor and your mind. Insider’s tip: If you go to the website, you’ll get a free 10-day trial membership.

Posted by Jessica Levco

How to Build Trust With Hospital Clients


Whether you’re trying to build trust with customers, clients, or co-workers, compassion is key. That word sounds soft, doesn’t it? Compassion. We’re not supposed to be concerned with compassion when it comes to business, right?

Wrong. Business, like all of life, is all about relationships. And good relationships don’t exist without compassion.

In The Seven Arts of Change, David Shaner says, “For some reason, we’ve conditioned ourselves to believe that business, capitalism, and management are subjects for which the laws of compassion and interconnectedness do not apply. For some reason, under the façade of ‘it’s nothing personal; it’s just business,’ we excuse behavior we would normally consider insensitive, careless, cruel, and even abusive.”

Why do we do this? Is it okay to lie to your co-workers, but not to your family? Is it acceptable to undercut your peer, but not your spouse? Is it ever acceptable to do one thing, but say another?

I don’t think so. If we’re interested in building trust, in working and living with people who have our backs – and we have theirs – then we have to be compassionate. We have to work to understand others’ positions, especially when they differ greatly from ours. This is not easy to do; it takes practice and consistent attention. But the results are well-worth it.

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

4 Research Tips for Your Next Medical Story


As a medical communicator, I’ve written a number of articles that required fair amounts of research. Luckily, I love the research aspect of my job and enjoy learning with each piece.

But what if the research doesn’t come easily? What if your job is to turn a verbose research paper or lengthy Powerpoint into something that a non-clinical audience would want to read and can easily understand? Here are a few tips from our clients to keep in mind:

Write interview questions as you research. If there’s something you don’t understand in the research, ask your interviewee to explain it. Sometimes clinicians believe a Powerpoint or research paper will tell the story on its own. If you’re facing resistance to an interview, let your expert know that you’re writing for both a clinical and a general audience. A brief phone interview, or answers to some questions over email, will greatly improve your story. UC Health has posted a detailed, but easily understood story on curing pancreatitis where the writer paraphrased a doctor’s explanation of a surgery.

Pretend you know nothing. Be sure to explain medical terms and procedures clearly and succinctly, so a broad audience will understand. The pericarditis page at Aurora Health Care’s website delves into pericarditis in a way that’s accessible to everyone.

Spell out and explain acronyms. Instead of using a medical acronym like CLABSI, say that hospital patients may suffer from infections if they have a central line that’s used to administer medication, nutrients or blood products.

Start with a story. Readers want to hear about how the research might affect them. For example, the nuts and bolts of research into the causes of infections that afflict newborns can be rather dry. But the lead in this story focuses on the human element in the research, drawing readers in to an article in Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Research Horizons.

Posted by Sarah Hawkins

How to speak to your elderly patients


Good writers keep the target audience in mind. But the default persona for a typical healthcare consumer tends to be a 36-year-old mother-of-two. In reality, the person seeking information for healthcare decisions is probably much older.

Older adults — those 65 and over — make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent 40 percent of hospital admissions. Plus, baby boomers turn 65 at the rate of 8,000 per day.

Who are all these people, and how can we talk to them effectively?

No such thing as a typical 70-year-old

Seventy-year-olds are all alike in the same way that 30-year-olds are all alike — only in age. Education, interests, ethnicity, priorities and heath status are as diverse among elders as youngsters.

What’s good for the senior is good for the junior

While we steer away from a senior stereotype (don’t be ageist!), it’s good to know that some cognitive abilities and thinking processes do tend to decline as people age.

Older adults may:

  • Process information at a slower pace
  • Have less working memory to hold onto several pieces of information at the same time
  • Experience difficulty in reading between the lines and drawing conclusions

These declines happen at a different pace for each person — might be at 65 for one person, not until 85 for someone else.

Here’s the great news

The techniques you use to make your content useful for older adults make it easier for everyone. Clear, concise, concrete, well organized, easy to scan, conversational tone, familiar words — everything that makes your web page, blog post or brochure easy to use for the average reader works for the older adult.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid toolkit gives you more points to consider when preparing material for older adults.

Now go picture that elderly reader in your mind as you write. And remember, that will be you someday.

Posted by Karla Webb

How to write the best hospital email subject line EVER!


Reading my junk email is my favorite hobby. That’s because there are so many examples of strong headline writing.

Take a look at these:

Open me, I’m kind of a big deal (Orbitz)

24 hours. 2 sales. Ready, go! (West Elm)

Health and Beauty Deals to Combat the Cruel Effects of Time (Groupon)

Why aren’t more hospital marketers writing subject lines like this?

Sure, we know you can’t offer patients a 20 percent off deal to Cancun (I’m looking at you, American Airlines), but you can offer patients information they need to know about. However, they aren’t going to know about it, unless they open your email. They’ll open your email if they like your subject line.

Remember, you’re not just competing against other promotional emails. You’re competing with a patient’s personal emails, social media notifications and oh, yeah — work emails, too.

But what happens if you’re working with a conservative C-suite that doesn’t enjoy a little playfulness? Here’s a trick: Consider doing some A/B testing. That means half of your audience would get an email with one subject line (fun one); the other half would get the email with the other subject line (standard one). If anybody from your C-suite questions you about the email, you have the data to prove which email subject line did the best.

We have a feeling it will be the fun one.

Posted by Jessica Levco

4 Tips for Hospital Video Production Success


Video storytelling is all the rage these days. Here are four tips to help production go smoothly.

  1. Write a brief outline for your video. Have the key players involved (the fewer, the better) approve the outline before filming starts. This way you’ll have buy-in for your project. The outline will also be your guide, and helps your actors know what’s expected.
  1. Always, always scout locations. Even if you’ve been there before, you should visit locations again to check it with your eyes and ears. Look for natural light. Listen for any sounds that may be out of place in your story. This includes doors opening and closing, cars, planes, or ringing phones. The hum of heating or air conditioning may be too loud in certain areas. And be creative with your locations. Steer clear of offices and conference rooms.
  1. There’s no such thing as too much b-roll. B-roll footage is what you cut to while your subjects tell a story. For example, in a hand hygiene video, b-roll might be an employee washing her hands and a hand hygiene sign. While you’re scouting, look for places where you can film b-roll that will match the content of your video. This MedStar Health promo does a great job of showing the story with b-roll.
  1. You have many ways to show and tell stories. Instead of using only talking heads, how can you show stories? Some opt for photo slideshows like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s “Pre-Olympic Snow Skier Recovers from Injury Like a Champion.” For this popular, low-budget YouTube “Tell Me a Story” series, Cincinnati Children’s staff records interviews and pairs stories with images.


Posted by Sarah Hawkins

Five Examples of Delightful Hospital Wellness Campaigns

Wellness Words

Wellness marketing is more than just telling patients to eat healthy and get 30 minutes of activity each day.

That’s because you can’t expect someone to achieve “wellness” in a day. If you’re asking someone to commit to being more healthful, you should commit to making sure your health and wellness advertising is in it for the long run, too.

Here are a few organizations that are doing just that:

Show your sporty side

Indiana University Health teamed up with the Indianapolis Colts to create the “Healthy Horseshoe Team.” Throughout the football season, participants were given weekly fitness, nutrition and health challenges. In addition, physicians wrote articles to share health and wellness tips.

Join the club

What we liked about Nebraska Medical Center’s health and wellness club is that it offers members the opportunity to do exercise activities (such as Tai Chi) and be social (bowling and book clubs). This free club is open to people older than 50. There are opportunities for members to go to medical seminars, health fairs and get blood pressure check-ups. In addition, Nebraska Medical Center publishes a quarterly health-related magazine, along with several blog topics dedicated to wellness.

Weekly health videos

“Project Health” at Penn State Hershey Medical Center is filled with weekly informational videos to keep families safe and healthy. Here’s a sampling of topics: tips for international travel, advice for controlling sodium intake and how to protect your children from HPV. See more here.

Offering a money-saving wellness program

What we loved most about Aurora Health Care’s “Total Health” program for businesses is that its homepage immediately addressed this question to potential business owners: “What’s the ROI?” Aurora Health Care proved the financial value of the program to business leaders within the first sentence. See the answer here.

A healthy lunch for kids

Each month, WellSpan Health teams up with local schools to introduce kids to a new fruit or vegetable. Not only do the kids get to taste-test the new food item on the lunch menu, but WellSpan also provides teachers activity sheets, posters, videos and fact sheets about the featured treat. Yum!

Posted by Jessica Levco

Three Steps to Healthcare Infographic Success


Before I came to WriterGirl, I was the editor of Ragan’s healthcare website. Each day, hospital marketers sent me infographics to run on our site. Some worked, but a lot didn’t.

That’s because a lot of them didn’t follow these three simple rules when planning their infographics. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Before you come up with a list of numbers and stats, think first about the story you want to tell. Does it have a theme? Can someone look at the infographic quickly and tell you in a few words what the infographic is about? Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it, too.
  1. Think about an image that would match your story/theme. If it’s not eye-catching, you’re not going to pull people in to “read” the numbers that you’re sharing. It’s not an infographic if it’s a circle with a number on it.
  1. Copy somebody else! If you have examples of infographics you like, that will help the writer and graphic designer get an idea of what you’re looking for. Here are a few infographics that might spark some ideas. (We got the one you see above from Social Media Examiner.)
Posted by Jessica Levco