healthcare content aha media

Last week, Jay Parkinson, MD, wrote a post on his blog called “How Healthcare Institutions Talk to You.” His post asserts that all the major medical centers use the same language and messages to describe themselves:

  1. “We care about you.“ and/or
  2. “We’re the best.”

Daphne Swancutt, a noted healthcare marketer, calls this the “sea of sameness”. Same messages, different institution.

I’m a freelance Web writer who specializes in healthcare. Every day I work with hospitals, private physicians and large practices to think about how to differentiate themselves in the cluttered, unorganized space of consumer healthcare marketing. In my humble opinion, healthcare marketers can use these 5 techniques to make their online content fresh and avoid the sea of sameness.

  1. Don’t be afraid of personality. So many times, clients balk from showing the personality of their physicians, or clinics or support staff. I have one client, a nuclear medicine specialist, who has an office filled with stuffed ducks. It’s a joke with his staff about quacking instead of complaining, and it caught on with his patients. Now, every time a patient needs a gift for this doctor, they buy him a stuffed duck. I would LOVE to take a picture of this doctor’s office and write a small story about the ducks and put it on his bio page. But it doesn’t fit in with the general culture of the website. This is a classic opportunity lost.
  2. Use real world stories. A basic part of the human condition is our love of stories. Every single culture has narrative. So use stories to tell the story about what patients will experience when visiting your healthcare institution. Patient testimonials are often boring and flat. Don’t have them fill out a paragraph about how much they love Dr. So and So. Instead, identify three conditions that are the most searched pages on your website. Find patients with successful outcomes and write stories about their experience with your staff. Find a creative way to engage the user with a memorable takeaway.
  3. Create “What to expect” guides. I love these pages because they really do allow you to highlight what makes your healthcare institution different. What to expect when you check in, what to expect when you have a procedure, what to expect at a treatment. I wrote a radiation oncology site about a year ago and I really spent time with the staff: walking through all the different rooms, getting a feel for the process. The entire site was written with that “tour guide” feel in mind so that a potential patient would have a sense of what would happen to them: from their first appointment, to the day they graduate from radiation treatment. Photo essays are helpful for this as well, as long as the captions aren’t too long and contain information relevant to the photo.
  4. Don’t ignore the family and friends. Where can I park my car and how much it will cost? Where can I get a cup of coffee? Is there an ATM? For patients, the anxiety is in the visit and the treatment. For the accompanying loved one, the anxiety is in the details. So don’t neglect detailed, logistical information and do not be afraid to give too much. So parking is $10 an hour. I doubt a patient won’t come to the hospital because of the parking fee. But at least they will know to have the cash on them and won’t scramble at the end of the visit to run to the ATM.
  5. Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth. (Bonus points to the reader who can tell me where this is from.) At the end of the day, no one is the best at everything and everyone really cares about their patients. Thanks for the information. So if you’re not the best, how do you differentiate yourself? How about telling the truth?
  • We’re a community hospital that offers excellent, personalized care in a smaller setting.
  • We’re in the inner city, so we see a wide variety of cases with complicating factors and have experience treating patients with those challenges.
  • Our rooms are really pretty and we have wireless internet.
  • We offer fellowship –trained physicians in a non-academic setting so they are free to really apply themselves to patient care and don’t have to worry about research.
  • We really are the best and this is why:
    • We pioneered this treatment
    • We’re one of the few that are willing to try this
    • We use teams to solve problems
    • Our technology is superior because we have the most experienced minds to interpret it.

Dive in to the sea of uniqueness.


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