When Writing Health Information, Page Length Matters

“Chock-full?” Or “short and sweet?” What’s the just-right length for health information pages? Well, it depends. Put yourself in the user’s shoes to help determine when to dish out the details and when shorter, carefully crafted pages will do.

Page Length: A Healthcare Writer’s Dilemma

We want to answer the public’s call for health information with branded content encouraging users to seek care at our facilities. But lengthy pages can drive potential patients away, leaving your messages unheard.

At the same time, short, choppy pages can turn the user experience into a scavenger hunt. And no one wants to forage for answers when they’re concerned about their health.

Short, choppy pages can turn the user experience into a scavenger hunt. No one wants to forage for answers when they’re concerned about their health. Click To Tweet

So what’s the fix? Find out the formula for figuring out page lengths.

Go All Out on Basic Health Information Topics

Longer pages are great for topics that are straightforward and not as emotionally charged. Consider basic condition information. A person who’s curious about the symptoms they’re experiencing probably wants to know about tests and treatments. So put it all on one page, using short chunks and bulleted lists, of course, so it’s easy to scan.

Read: Why You Need to Add Patient Education Information Material to Your Website, Pronto

Other health information topics that lend themselves to a longer page length include:

  • Patient resources and support services
  • Healthy living, such as nutrition, exercise and lifestyle recommendations
  • Clinical team details, including provider rosters
  • Pre- and post-procedure patient instructions

Less Is More When Writing About Complicated and Emotionally Charged Topics

Aim for a shorter page length when writing about medically complex topics. Audiences reading these words typically have serious health conditions and may be dealing with difficult care decisions. Shorter pages allow users to pause and process what they’ve read, preventing them from getting overwhelmed.

Aim for a shorter page length when writing about medically complex topics, like radiation therapy for cancer. Click To Tweet

A good example of a complex topic is radiation therapy for cancer:

It’s downright scary. First of all, living with cancer would make anyone anxious. And now you need treatments from a big machine while you’re alone in a procedure room, lying perfectly still. The fear factor makes it a sensitive topic, and it’s complicated because there are so many options and technologies.

Trying to cover a description of your radiation therapy program PLUS treatment options PLUS addressing the fear factor — all in one page? That’s a fast track to information overload. Users will only retain bits and pieces, and it might not do anything to quell their fears.

Let Your Audience’s Needs Be Your Guide

Patients find it frustrating when they have to root around for answers to general health questions. They’d prefer everything in one place.

But when it comes to complex, sensitive topics, like cancer treatments, users are often seeking different types of information — which require different types of pages. Breaking content into shorter, focused pages helps users find the health information that meets their needs. It also helps your pages perform better in search.

Breaking content into shorter, focused pages helps users find the health information that meets their needs. #hcmktg #webwriting Click To Tweet

Going back to radiation therapy:

  • Users at the beginning of their care journey may only want high-level information. This is a discrete topic that deserves its own page.
  • Patients who want information about a specific type of radiation therapy will appreciate being able to get right to the details. A page focused on radiation therapy types would make this information easy to find and easier to read.

Read: What’s the Best SEO Content Length for Your Healthcare Site?

Making Content Trade-Offs

Writing shorter pages sometimes means omitting details that fall into the “interesting but not critical to know” category — such as additional facts about treatment technologies, a patient who achieved excellent results or how your clinicians work as a team.

But letting go of these details in the name of shorter web pages doesn’t mean this awesome sauce has to go to waste. Give it new life through other publications, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Newsletter articles
  • Video content
  • Social media
  • Patient stories

Read: 5 Standout Examples of Writing Patient Stories to Connect With Audiences

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About Laura Bloom

Laura Bloom, MBA

A 20-plus-year veteran of the healthcare industry, Laura’s previous work includes technical writing and project management roles at UnitedHealth Group, WebMD and a federally funded quality improvement organization. Laura has a passion for helping consumers make informed decisions about their care, which is why she became a content writer.... More >