» Connecting the Power of Writing with the Practice of Medicine

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Four Tweets We Adore

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

Cringe.

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

 

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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

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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

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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.

Ommmmmm…

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

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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

 

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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.

Why?

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

The Power of the Patient Story

I won’t buy mascara or a vacuum cleaner without first reading reviews (called “testimonials” in the olden days). Increasingly, consumer reviews are a powerful influence on consumer decision making despite the fact that reviewers are relatively anonymous, usually identified only by a first name.

Smart healthcare marketers recognize and participate in the review trend. That includes optimizing your organization’s report cards, patient satisfaction ratings and performance on third-party reviewing systems. But don’t neglect another “review” tool at your disposal and more within your control: the patient story.

The Purpose
Patient stories on your website or in your organization’s publications are free advertising – but more powerful than advertising. Consumers tend to be skeptical about advertising, figuring you can pay to say whatever you want without always factoring in the truth. If they see a person or a patient – identified by full name, city and a photograph – offering details about superb, compassionate care from your hospital or clinic, they will probably regard it less skeptically.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the word “testimonial.” However, the definition of testimonial is valuable when considering patient stories. According to Merriam-Webster, testimony means “firsthand authentication of a fact or open acknowledgement.” Of course you recognize the significance of authenticity, of real and true accounts of patients’ experiences with your hospital or clinic. These kind of stories engage prospective patients and draw them to your hospital or clinic.

The Message
What makes an authentic patient story? I think it has to do with being able to pull out the important details of the patient’s experience; really capturing the voice of the patient. Those details – and the authentic voice of the patient – help others to relate: to the disease, the diagnosis, the treatment, the recovery, the emotions, the experience, and finally, the hope.

Elements of a strong patient story include:

  • A unique situation or individual.
  • Quotes that are modified and smoothed, not to change the meaning, but to show the patient in a favorable light. These should never read (or sound) as if they’re rehearsed or manufactured.
  • A compelling story line that isn’t overly dramatic.
  • A journalistic style of writing.
  • Interspersed narrative and quotes.

Previously, I said a patient story is free advertising. To that end, preparing a story should entail the same attention that you give to creating an advertisement. Just as there is a process for creating an ad campaign, there is a process for creating effective patient stories:

  • Close, frequent contact with providers – including nurses – to identify potential stories.
  • Patient interview (can be by phone) by a skilled professional who knows the right questions to ask in order to gather interesting details that will differentiate the story.
  • Careful, professional writing.
  • Photography if the patient does not have high-quality, appropriate photos to share.
  • A formal review process that includes verifying the facts with the healthcare provider, and a careful review by the patient. The patient should sign all legal release forms, and indicate that s/he understands the implications of sharing medical information in publications, on your website and through social media.
  • At least annual proactive review of stories to ensure they are current and relevant, including contacting providers to check patient health, and checking with patients to verify their decision to continue participating.

The Right Medium
Patient stories can be written, video or both. It’s important to provide information to patients and potential patients in mediums where they are receptive to your messages. Some people prefer reading stories; others would rather watch a video. Some patients may be uncomfortable appearing in a video but will give an interview for a print story. Videos require a script and rehearsal, necessitate more staff time and are more expensive to produce; however, video is playing an increasingly strong role in SEO, so you’ll need to weigh that cost with other factors. But remember, if you choose to offer video, be sure you have the technology to back it up. Some website visitors will abandon watching a video if it takes too long to download or endlessly buffers.

Your budget and time may dictate your options. Both forms of stories can be pushed out via social media for maximum exposure.

The Mission – Yours
The well-done patient story is a remarkably effective marketing tool. The stories are out there. It’s your job to find and use them as reviews to authenticate your hospital or clinic’s value and attract patients looking for medical expertise.

Posted by Melissa Abrams, WriterGirl Associate

Four Ways to Cut Costs by Repurposing Content

You probably have a LOT of content in your vault. And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that much of that content can be easily repurposed across other channels. Not only does this save you time and money (and makes you look like a rock star in your boss’s eyes), but it’s also a way to keep giving out great info to your patients. Provided it’s not too old, this content is like gold to your organization.

When properly directed (and that direction is key), your staff and/or outsourced writers can simply use stories or content that is already vetted and fact-checked as source content for entirely new pieces. That means they have more time to focus on updating time-sensitive content or editing new content.

Patient stories
Patient stories provide an excellent means of repurposing content. Perhaps your website provides a few quotes from a patient who had a fast recovery as a result of a new minimally invasive procedure. Why not use a photo and some additional quotes from that same patient for a waiting room tri-fold, to further elaborate on how that procedure is becoming an option for many patients? This repurposing saves you considerable time and money because you’re not starting from scratch with a brand-new patient. (And it promotes your profitable minimally invasive procedure at the same time. You are officially a rock star.)

Physician bios
The experts in your organization have stories to tell, and your patients enjoy knowing more about the people taking care of them. Writing a full-length bio for your expert physicians will save you time and money in the long run, because you can quickly extract key sentences for future needs such as press releases, newsletters, emails, annual reports and web articles. (And because this isn’t our first rodeo, WriterGirl knows how difficult it can be to get those bios done. We have a process for that, if you’re interested in learning more.)

What to expect during a hospital visit
The website data we’ve seen from hospitals indicates that patients like this content. That make sense: Going to the hospital for just about any sort of procedure is intimidating at best, frightening at the worst. So it’s helpful to have something to read that tells you what to expect, what to bring, what you can and can’t eat before your procedure and so on. And with readmissions becoming an ever-hotter topic in terms of hospital revenue, those instructions on what to do after a procedure are vital.

It can be fairly simple to do some research and learn what information is being distributed to patients. Then, it becomes a matter of duplicating that online and in your print collateral. Once you have the universal patient instructions, copying and pasting that information for all mediums can take you far less time, and give you an excellent means to fill white space.

Awards and recognition
Your content vault is probably richly stocked with useful nuggets of impressive, reusable content. Keep up to date with each department’s quarterly awards and recognitions, both in clinical and research settings. Remember to include grant awards as well as donor gifts. You might consider pulling patient testimonials in with some of your awards content, highlighting the unique and compelling aspects of patient care in your organization.

Remember, repurposing your content is anything but lazy. As long as you bring a fresh eye, your existing content is a gold mine for keeping your materials updated and interesting. (And your boss will thank you when you present all the cost savings!)

Posted by Christy Pretzinger, President & CEO

Build Loyalty by Providing Online Health and Wellness Information

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