Woman wearing mask with hands crossed over heart showing empathyOne of the beautiful things about the written word is that it can last forever.

One of the terrible things about the written word is, yep, it can last forever.

That’s why it matters that we choose our words carefully — because whether they’re good or bad, they “stick.” Perhaps now more than ever, healthcare messaging will have a lasting impact on patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a universal wave of emotion to the surface. Panic, fear, anger, confusion are feelings we’re all dealing with. Empathetic communication in healthcare lets patients and consumers know you’re right there with them. They’ll see you’re ready to help them with whatever they’re going through.

Five ways to bring empathy into healthcare communication

I appreciate the way bestselling author and scholar Brené Brown describes empathy: “feeling with people.”

Here are five ways your healthcare writing can show you’re feeling with patients:

1. Keep building your legacy of empathy

Hard as it is to believe, one day the pandemic will be over. What will be left are your words and actions from this time. As you look at your communications, ask yourself:

  • Was your empathy off the charts when it came to how you welcomed patients back to your newly reopened facility?
  • Did you ask how you could help meet their needs?
  • Will patients recall how you were there for them on every social media platform, seeking their comments and questions?

What they remember from this time will be part of your legacy of empathy. Build it well.

2. Use a caring and open voice in your content

Pre-pandemic, many patients were already anxious when they visited a hospital. Now they’re facing new rules about visiting and hygiene. It’s important that they feel safe and cared for from their first connection with your organization. Often their first connection is your website, a brochure or a TV ad. For instance, you could build a strong connection by using imagery that reflects your brand but also relates to the current times and shows caring and optimism.

Social distancing is such a part of our culture now. It’s vital not to add another layer of distance with words. Writing with transparency and empathy shows you’re a trustworthy caregiver.

3. Make your website easy to navigate

Life is stressful enough. Make it simpler for your visitors by making your website easy to use.

Don’t bury the information people are looking for most. Present your condition and treatment pages, contact information and find-a doctor-feature. For instance, the provider search function will be more accessible if:

  • It’s prominently placed on the homepage
  • Spellchecks names and specialties
  • Includes different endings for the terms (stemming)
  • Allows for synonyms

New information about COVID-19 and reopening should also be front and center and relevant links clearly placed.

4. Use plain, simple language

Many illnesses and treatments are hard to understand. Create content that clearly explains each step of the diagnosis and treatment process in everyday language. Make your new COVID-19 guidelines as plain as you can. Your visitors will be grateful.

5. It’s okay to keep some of the ‘old’ normal

The phrase “new normal” definitely applies to life these days. Despite having already worn out its welcome, it’s a phrase that will probably be around for a while. But let’s not forget some of the “old normal,” which is what sets your organization apart in the first place. Empathetic communication is found in your voice — familiar, caring, knowledgeable. It’s you, showing up for patients like you always have.

A sense of normalcy can help ease their fears during a time of disruption. Don’t shy away from revisiting or revamping older messaging, as long as it’s still relevant. While you may need to refresh it in the context of COVID-19, your community will find comfort in a familiar voice. Clear, warm messaging they recognize as your “signature” brings a sense of stability.

Give patients the ’empathy experience’

Your marketing materials have always set the stage for a great experience. These days, patients feel more vulnerable because they’re facing new experiences in care. Communicate with empathy and show you’re ready to meet their needs. Then patients will see your organization for what matters most now: as their caring advocate, expert resource and healthcare hero.


Need support as you re-enter the market? WriterGirl is ready to jump in anytime. Drop us a line to learn how we can help you reach your audience with custom content.