Doctor looking at computer completing physician bio survey It’s time to update your website’s doctor bios. While no small task, it’s certainly an important one — a 2020 survey showed that 57% of healthcare consumers search the internet when looking for a new provider.

You could interview all those doctors in person (or over the phone), but it can be a challenge to get doctors to commit to a time, and they often need to reschedule several times because they’re busy doing what doctors do.

In our experience at WriterGirl, an online physician bio questionnaire using a tool like SurveyMonkey can be an excellent option. Providers can answer the questions at their convenience on their own time. And it can be more efficient because it doesn’t take staff time to schedule, reschedule and conduct all those interviews.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Scope the task

The first step is to get the lay of the land. How many bios do you need to create? Is this a staff of 200 or 2,000? Are you writing a bio just for the physicians or will you include advanced practice providers and nurses, too? Do researchers get a bio?

Consider the timeframe. Is there a particular deadline you have to meet, or do you have the luxury of time? Will you tackle them all at once or in batches — say, by division, or priority, or likelihood of participation?

And, who will write the bios once you have the information from the providers? (Feeling overwhelmed already? WriterGirl can help!)

2. Decide what kind of bios your organization needs

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How long should the bios be? Is there a word or character limit dictated by the web design? Do you want them short and sweet or as long as it takes? Should all the bios be about the same length?
  • Who is the audience? Will bios be aimed at patients and families or professional peers?
  • What is the voice and tone of the bios? The target audience will influence the tone. Are you going for conversational and casual or more formal and “just the facts”? A bio aimed at consumers should avoid medical jargon and speak to bedside manner and care philosophy. A bio aimed at research peers can employ more scientific-speak. Although, even highly educated professionals prefer to read plain language.  Also, you can stick with a more conventional style or you can get really creative, like this children’s hospital did.
  • First person or third person? “I am a neurologist who specializes in…” versus “Dr. John Smith is a neurologist who specializes in…” Bios written in the first person may come across more personal. But you can also personalize third-person bios with direct quotes from the provider.

3. Create awareness and get provider buy-in

Doctors are busy. They get a lot of email. Why should they open this email and fill out this physician bio questionnaire? You’ll need a communication plan.

To succeed, it’s vital to create awareness and get buy-in from the providers.  You’ll need someone who pulls weight in your organization to champion this cause for you. Perhaps it’s one VIP at the top, or maybe you need the physician leader of each division.

Plan on an in-person meeting with your VIP(s) to explain the value of online provider bios and how they can help you get the word out. If your VIP is a provider, they can lead the way by filling out the questionnaire first. You can use their finished bio as a sample to show other providers.

You can also promote the project in your physician newsletter or any other platform that your providers see.

In addition, work with your medical staff office to make filling out the physician bio questionnaire part of the new hire process and the reappointment process.

4. Decide what to ask on the questionnaire

What questions should you ask on the questionnaire? The answer goes back to the audience you’re targeting. For patients and families, aim for questions that will capture your providers’ bedside manner and personality as well as their experience and expertise.

Some examples include:

  • Who or what inspired you to become a provider?
  • What advice do you like to give patients?
  • How would you describe your care philosophy?
  • What keeps you passionate about your work?
  • What do you like to do in your free time when you’re not helping patients?

The provider’s credentials may not need to be part of your survey questions. Your medical staff office likely keeps a database of that information like education, board certification and languages spoken. Ideally, those fields can be pulled in from the database into your site’s content management system (CMS). Then the narrative web bio doesn’t repeat those facts since they are already listed on the doctor’s profile page.

You might consider pointing out the provider’s experience in the bio. Consumers prefer a physician with 20 years of experience with a rating of four out of five stars over another with five out of five stars and only four years of experience, according to a 2017 report from Healthgrades.  If a provider has decades of experience practicing medicine, patients want to know.

Finally, keep the questionnaire on the short side so it appears less daunting to a busy provider just opening it. You can experiment with the number of questions as your project goes along. We’ve found that eight questions (including “what is your name” and “what is your email address”) is optimal.

5. Create the actual physician bio questionnaire in the survey tool

Once you decide on your questions, it’s time to create the actual physician bio questionnaire. Use your hospital logo and colors so it’s branded, professional and attractive.

Most of the questions will be open-ended with no character limit in the answer box. SurveyMonkey also offers an ‘upload files’ option, so you can have doctors upload a CV or list of publications if desired.

You can set the survey to notify you by email when someone fills out a questionnaire.

6. Invite the providers to participate via email

You’ll need accurate email addresses for all the providers you want to participate. Use this list with an email service provider that can send large batches of email at once, such as MailChimp or Constant Contact. The list can also be used for tracking your progress as providers fill out the questionnaire.

Include a personalized message inviting the providers to participate, and include a link to the online questionnaire they can click on from the email. Your message can mention the value of a web bio for patients to find them online. Including a sample bio can also inspire them and answer their questions about what the end result will look like.

Remember to give the providers a deadline to respond — even doctors need a deadline to help them prioritize. If they don’t respond by that deadline, you can extend the deadline and send a friendly reminder.

7. Check the survey and write the bios

As providers fill out your questionnaire, assign them to your writing team. You’ll want to establish an approval process. It might go something like this:

  • Write first draft.
  • Edit/proofread the draft.
  • Send that draft to the provider for feedback.
  • Incorporate any provider edits and send back to them for final approval.
  • Post the approved bio online.

Depending on the number of bios and your timeline, you may need a team of writers to get the job done. Don’t forget WriterGirl is here to help at any stage of of your doctor bio project — from scoping the task to choosing the questions to sending invitations and writing the bios. Just reach out when you need us!