My knee has been giving me problems lately. It’s swollen and stiff. It hurts when I walk downstairs or stand from a sitting position. So, have I called my doctor to discuss the issue? Have I even visited my pharmacist to ask about a knee brace?
I did what most of America does. I turned to Dr. Google (who, by the way, says I have patellofemoral pain syndrome, otherwise known as runner’s knee).
Don’t get me wrong: Diagnosing yourself via the internet or with a health and wellness blog isn’t something I endorse. When you have a medical problem, you should seek the advice of a trained medical provider. But the reality is, we often don’t. In many cases — and for many reasons — convenience trumps credentials.
Good health blogs are good for healthcare businesses
According to the Professional Research Consultants, a healthcare research and marketing organization, 87% of us go online to research medical conditions and diagnoses.
That’s millions of Americans relying on the internet for medical information. And you’re missing a huge chunk of them if your organization’s health and wellness blog isn’t user friendly, up to date and engaging.
Your first responsibility as a healthcare marketer is to make sure your blog’s content is medically reasonable and relatable. If that content drives the consumer back to your organization for healthcare — because you’ve highlighted your providers’ expertise or positioned yourself as a leader in the field — then you’re on the right track.
Consider that 60% of family physicians in a Merck Manual survey said patients come into the office more frequently because of information they read about online. In other words, good blogs can be good for business.
Here are some steps to make sure your organization’s health and wellness blog is one of the best.
10 tips for writing a great health and wellness blog
1. Reel the reader in
“Call me Ishmael” is one of the most memorable first lines of any piece of literature. Why? It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s intriguing. The intro of a good health blog is all those things as well. So, channel your inner Herman Melville and bring the reader in.
Try a surprising statistic, little known fact, powerful quote or medical scenario they can relate to. The intro of this blog from Mission Health includes some truly startling statistics about the 1918 Spanish Flu. It will have you running, not walking, to get your annual flu shot.
2. Position yourself as a health leader by using credible sources in your health blog
Imagine you’re a person looking for authoritative, accurate medical information. Which would you rather read — a wellness blog written by an expert or one written by, well, who knows who?
Your organization is full of highly respected experts. Showcase them by interviewing them for a blog or inviting them to be guest bloggers. You could even offer to ghostwrite a post if they don’t have the time to draft it.
Here are some great examples:
- This healthy living blog about the wildly popular pumpkin spice trend written by an Altru Health System registered dietitian.
- A wellness blog on men’s fertility after cancer treatment written by an Emory Healthcare urologist specializing in male reproductive health.
- A Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta blog on helping sick kids feel better. It includes a quote from one of the health system’s pediatricians. It also has information from top-tier health sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
3. Use plain language
Medicalese is a language few of us speak. The best wellness blogs use terms the average American understands. That means writing “heart attack” instead of “myocardial infarction” and “high blood pressure” instead of “hypertension.” If using a medical term is unavoidable, make sure you explain what it is. Check out these free tools for creating easy-to-read content.
4. Keep it short
The average human attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds today. That, says Digital Information World, means we now clock in with an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish (which, in case you’re wondering, is nine seconds long).
If you want to keep readers’ attention, you’re going to have to act quickly and keep things brief. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these best practices:
- Put the most important information at the top of the article.
- Create short lists (notice the use of bulleted items in this post).
- Keep sentences to between 8-10 words and paragraphs to 3-5 sentences.
5. Be conversational
Good health blogs, even ones written by doctors, read as if the writer is talking to a friend. Use the words “you” and “we” instead of “they” and “them.” “People” instead of “patient.” And write in an active voice (for example, “Call your doctor” instead of “The doctor should be called”) whenever possible.
This blog post on lung health from El Camino Health makes the information relatable by using “our,” “we” and “you.”
6. Connect to your readers with personal stories
Adding personal stories to your health blog is a great way to connect with your audience. This blog on cholesterol screening from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital does a great job informing the reader about what cholesterol numbers mean. It also tells the story of one of the hospital’s young patients who suffered a heart attack due to unaddressed high cholesterol.
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center published this wellness blog on one woman’s experience battling cancer while pregnant. The blog relies heavily on the woman’s personal story with medical input from her doctors. Including personal anecdotes makes the information in health and wellness blogs feel accessible to the reader.
7. Add visuals to your wellness blog
Big blocks of copy are, well, big blocks of copy. Not exactly fun for your eyes. You can give your wellness blog some visual appeal and keep readers engaged by inserting photos, graphs, and even videos into the copy.
Here’s a blog from OhioHealth that not only gives readers written instructions on how to do certain back exercises, it also shows readers how to do them in a series of videos.
8. Update as needed
Science is constantly evolving, and your wellness blog should, too. Case in point: COVID-19. At the beginning of the pandemic, experts told us not to wear facemasks. Then they told us we should. The CDC has also recently revised their recommendations on how long to quarantine.
Readers won’t see your healthcare system as a credible thought leader if your blogs are behind the times. Update them periodically with the most current research and guidelines.
9. Create a call to action in your health blog
Providing content on a medical topic is great. It’s the reason many people are looking at your health blog in the first place. But don’t stop there. Understanding things like migraines or gout is one thing. Treating or preventing them is another.
Make your content actionable. Give readers concrete “how-to” steps on what they can do to help protect themselves. You can also give guidance on when they need to see a healthcare provider (another way to draw readers to your healthcare system).
This blog on winter asthma from the Cleveland Clinic includes all the usual information about why cold temperatures can be problematic for asthmatics. But it takes it a step further by giving the reader tips on preventing a cold-weather asthma attack, including actionable items like wearing a scarf around your mouth while outside.
One caveat: Your wellness blog shouldn’t be perceived as a substitute for medical advice. To drive that point home, be sure to include a disclaimer stating that the blog is only intended for informational purposes and readers should address any health concerns with their healthcare providers.
10. Be positive
The internet can be a scary place. The best health and wellness blogs inform about risks and consequences but also offer reassuring news. They may outline effective treatments or provide testimonials from patients who’ve been there, done that, and come out the other side.
Here’s a great case in point — a health blog from Cedars-Sinai about a woman’s struggle with infertility. The post chronicles her endometrial surgery and how it led to the birth of her healthy baby boy.
The best healthcare wellness blogs provide a service to patients and providers alike. They give medically sound information that’s accessible to readers while also promoting your healthcare system’s many offerings. And that’s a win-win for all.
Okay, now for that call to my doctor to confirm what Dr. Google suspects…
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